Structure and damage of the African baobab (adansonia digitata l.) In South East Lowveld of Zimbabwe
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The baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) is a keystone species largely distributed in dryland ecosystems. People and wildlife are highly dependent on it for food and other uses. To date no study has holistically compared the effects of both humans and elephants on the baobabs. To understand people and elephants’ impact on the baobab, data on density, structural variables (height, basal area and canopy cover) were collected from two protected areas (Save Valley Conservancy (SVC), Chipinge Safari Area) and a communal area (Gudyanga Communal Area). The objective was to determine the abundance, structure and damage extent of baobabs between communal and protected areas. Two 1km2 plots were randomly marked at each study site and all trees were surveyed for height, trunk circumference and damage. Baobab basal area, height and canopy cover were compared across study using Kruskal Wallis test. Baobabs were put in diameter size-class in order understand the distribution of the tree in the three study sites. The effect of catena position and location on baobab structural variables (height, canopy cover and basal area) were analysed using generalized linear models. Damage categories between sites were explored using Chi-squared test. The major findings reflected a high baobab abundance presence in the communal area than in protected areas. However, baobab recruitment was highest in Chipinge Safari Area (CSA) due to humans and elephants absence. Gudyanga and Chipinge had higher basal area per tree than SVC. For canopy cover, Gudyanga had the lowest values per trees compared with SVC and CSA. Catena position had an influence on baobab population and damage due to plant nutrients variation along the slope. The study recommended the need for intervention strategies for baobabs conservation. In conclusion, communal areas provided a conducive environment for the growth of baobabs as compared with protected areas. The variations could be as a result of herbivory and re-generational patterns.