Response of woody vegetation to bush thinning on freehold farmlands in north-central Namibia

  • January 6, 2023
  • by Nghikembua M., Marker L. L., Brewer B., Leinonen A., Mehtätalo L., Appiah M., Pappinen A.


Bush encroachment affects much of the Namibian woodland landscape, causing significant loss of open savannah habitat and farm profits. Thinning of the trees/shrubs is recommended; however, research is required to identify the overall efficacy and effects of this method on the woodland habitat. We aimed to examine the effect of the thinning strategy applied on the vegetation structure of encroaching tree/shrub species, as well as the sighting lines of the habitat. Vegetation surveys were done on three freehold farms in north-central Namibia. The study utilised a combination of a blocked and split-plot study design: each block consisted of a pair of thinned and non-thinned plots with multiple subplots. Thinned plots had been manually thinned, with a post-thinning age of three years or more. Results revealed that tree/shrub abundance differed between species; thinned areas had the least abundance and overall species-treatment interactions were significant. Thinning caused a significant reduction in overall tree/shrub densities, settling within the recommended range for the area. Thinning also significantly reduced the average tree/shrub height, canopy area, medium-sized trees/shrubs, and increased sighting lines. This confirms a bush encroachment mitigation strategy that favours grass cover, and wildlife that rely on longer sighting lines for safety or when hunting.

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