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THE EFFECT OF ACACIA MEARNSII INVASION AND CLEARING ON SOIL LOSS IN THE KOUGA MOUNTAINS, EASTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA

Authors


B.W. Van Der Waal, Department of Geography, Catchment Research Group, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa 6140.

E-mail: bvdwaal@gmail.com

ABSTRACT

Concerns exist over increasing sediment yields in areas of South Africa with a Mediterranean climate that result from the clearing of invasive woody vegetation from steep slopes, as part of the Working for Water Programme. Erosion rates were monitored with erosion pins over a 26-month period. Measurements were made on slopes covered with indigenous fynbos vegetation, intact Acacia mearnsii stands (the invasive species) and on slopes from which A. mearnsii had been cleared either within the last 2 years or 11 years ago. Net erosion was observed at all sites following the largest storm during the monitoring period, whereas smaller storms were often accompanied by net deposition. Cleared locations showed the most variable response through time and sites with native fynbos vegetation the least. A stepwise multiple regression showed that vegetation cover, slope gradient and stone cover were the main variables affecting soil loss, but the relationship varied between sites and measuring periods. Soil loss was negatively related to vegetation cover and stone cover, as could be expected; the negative relationship with slope was more surprising. Stone cover, which increases with slope gradient, is considered to be an important control on soil loss. The findings of this study suggest that the rehabilitation of hillslopes invaded by alien woody vegetation needs to take into account the slow recovery of vegetation after initial clearing as, 11 years since clearing, significant erosion still occurs during severe storms. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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