Seasonal changes in the nutrient content of East African grassland vegetation


‡Present Address and Correspondence: Department of Range Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2126, USA.


Significant seasonal changes in the concentrations of N, P, K, and Ca were observed in the herb layer vegetation at Nairobi National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. These changes were related to the alternation of wet and dry seasons. Live forbs typically had the highest concentrations of all nutrients, especially N and Ca, at both locations. Standing dead and litter compartments showed less seasonal variation and had the lowest concentrations of all nutrients except Ca when compared with those of other compartments. Standing stocks of all nutrients were higher at Nairobi National Park than at Masai Mara due to larger litter and standing dead compartments resulting from lower grazing intensity and a lower frequency of fire. Most of the aboveground nutrients at Nairobi National Park appeared to be recycled through the decomposer pathway, while a large proportion of the standing stock at Masai Mara appeared to be recycled through the excreta of large mammalian herbivores and through fires. The crude protein content of the live grass compartment fell below maintenance levels required for ruminants (5% crude protein) during September 1980 and February 1981 at Nairobi National Park and during June and July 1980 at Masai Mara Game Reserve. Thus, herbivore populations in these preserves may be limited by shortages of nutritionally adequate food during dry seasons, as previously reported for other regions in East Africa.