Small mammal community structure (Rodentia: Muridae) in Punda Maria, Kruger National Park, South Africa : Causes and consequences

Bachelor Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The population dynamics of small mammal populations in Punda Maria, Kruger National Park, South Africa was investigated with respect to community size and structure, seed predation and dispersal of several trees. Species populations, community structure and habitat attributes were measured at six sites comprising of 3 habitat types (2 sites per habitat); namely Acaciagrassland, North-facing and South-facing sloped sites. Seasonal variation was investigated at the Acacia sites during late summer (April) and winter months (July). Five habitat attributes were measured; percentages of total cover and herbage, plant litter depth (cm), height of dominant vegetation type measured (m) and edaphic condition were recorded at 15 randomly selected traps per site. Almonds (Prunus dulcis), baobabs (Adansonia digitata), mopane (Colophospermum mopane), and Acacia tortilis seeds were used in the predation and dispersal experiment. North- and South-facing sites were dominated by Aethomys sp. while Acacia sites were dominated by Mastomys natalensis. Seed predation was high at the North-facing slopes, with a significant difference in predation on A. tortilis seeds. Seed dispersal activity was low; no , scatter hoarding was identified; only larder hoarding was observed by Aethomys sp. and M. natalensis at North-facing sites and Acacia sites respectively. Trampling by megaherbivore activity impacted vegetation structure and has negatively affected rodent population and ground activity, particularly at the Acacia sites.