Regrowth and palatability of acacia shoots following pruning by African savanna browsers’

Stands of two species of African Acacia were monitored for 1 yr in a natural savanna ecosystem, to compare shoot regrowth and leaf chemistry in lightly browsed and heavily browsed trees. Where ungulates concentrated at a seasonal waterhole, A. nigrescens was more severely browsed than the thornier and finer leafed A. tortilis. Shoot regrowth in heavily browsed A. nigrescens more than compensated for herbivory, as net annual shoot extension was not significantly different from that in lightly browsed trees. Foliage of heavily browsed A. nigrescens was higher in nutrients and lower in condensed tannins than foliage of lightly browsed trees. We propose that severe pruning by browsing ungulates reduces intershoot competition for nutrients, promoting rapid shoot regrowth. Carbohydrate demands of rapid regrowth reduce carbon-based secondary metabolite synthesis. This results in patches of highly palatable browse that attract further browsing, generating a browsing- regrowth feedback loop. Such patches may be considered analogous to grazing lawns.

Last Updated
January 28, 2021
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