BUSH FACTS #16 – SHAKATI’S ECOSYSTEM

Overview

Welcome to the sixteenth edition of Shakati Bush facts. In this edition we will be focusing on Shakati’s location, Plant communities/habitats, and animal life, food and water habits. We focus on the environment as this is an essential part of our ecosystem

 

Physical location

The reserve is located close to the southern turning circle at an altitude of approx. 1000-1100 meters. The annual rainfall is approx. 600 mm. / Year, which falls in the summer period October-March, while the period April-September is dry. The underground is sandstone / sandy soil up to 7 km depth. In summer the day / night temperature is around 30/20 while day / night the temperature in winter is 20/5 degrees.

Vegetation on this latitude, with this rainfall, height and temperature variation, is subtropical deciduous forest, or Bushveld, which is widespread throughout the western part of the Limpopo Province (Figure).

Map 1

It is subdivided into Sourveld (high-lying, e.g. Marakele, thin soil, few nutrient salts), mixed bushveld (lowered, thicker ground layers, several nutrient salts) and sweet field (lowest / along rivers, many nutrient salts, high clay content)

The reserve is located in Eco-zone Mixed Bushveld. Trees in the sour and mixed bushveld are broad-leaved as they transpire a lot of water to pull the few nutrients up from the underground.

Slope

Trees

Frequent species of wood in the reserve:

  1. Silver Cluster leaf (about 50%), character type
  2. Wild Seringa (about 30%) character species
  3. Peeling Plane (the dark bark, is very fragile and the branches break off easily)
  4. Round-leaved Teak (large, flat seed capsule, flowers only open in wet / damp weather, good furniture)
  5. Large-fruited Bushwillow (red 2-winged fruit)
  6. Transvaal beech (The Boers called it birch because it looked like birch trees they knew)
  7. Weeping wattle (toilet paper tree, soft leaves. The tree “cries” when insects suck juice and release water in amounts to resemble rain / tears)
  8. Monkey apple/orange (the animal’s love the orange fruit and the tree crumbles when it is dug up)

 

Habitat types in the reserve:

Rocks / ridges The original sandstone cliff reaches the surface of the reserve (outcrops), but is especially seen in the north / west part of the reserve, south of the waterhole and most at the lodge area where a long and wide rock wall runs east- West across the reserve with rainfall in a cliff nest down to the river. The vegetation found here is one of the most original and has many Waterberg endemic species. Here the rocks can be seen up to 5 meters high evergreen Transvaal milk plum (Engelerophytum magalismontanum), which carries its distinctive yellow fruits on the trunk. In addition, Transvaal red milkwood (Mimusops zeyheri), a smaller evergreen tree-also with yellow edible fruits and some sugar bush (Protea caf.), which is South Africa’s national tree. The cliff habitat is important to the reserve, as it forms hiding and micro habitats for a wide variety of insects, birds and mammals.

Savannahs: dominated by various grasses and wood species characteristic of the open bush / woodland. Since the reserve has deep sandy soil, you will find the characteristic gray sandy tree Silver cluster leaf (Terminalia sericea), the most frequent tree of the reserve. It is a pioneer tree similar to birch trees in Denmark. On the savannas there are especially grazing animals like Blesbok, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hartebeest and impala, while leaf browsers like Giraffe and Kudu can be seen by the trees.

Acacia Forest: Acacia require more nutrients and therefore thrives best in more clay soil. The reserve has acacia populations in several places, but in the north there is a real acacia forest, with a variety of acacia species, such as Common Acacia caf., Sweet Thorn (Acacia Karroo), Splendid Thorn (Acacia Robusta), Black Thorn (Acacia Mellifera), Black monkey thorn (Acacia Burkeii) and Buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata). Also in the eastern part of the reserve are some acacia trees. Despite the towers, the acacia leaves are eaten a lot of the browsing and grazing animals like Giraffe, Kudu, Eland and Impala. The nutritious peals of the acacia trees fall down in autumn and are a popular nutritional supplement for all animals during the winter break. In the forest you will see the typical browsers like the giraffes and Kudu, but also other species that seek coolness, food and hide.

Scenery - Road - HDR 06

Other forests: There are closer forests or so-called woodland with mixed trees in much of the reserve, but especially the north western quarter, a kind of “climax forest” is seen where the height, density and age of trees are close to the possible climatic conditions of the area. (15-18 meters altitude. The tallest tree of the reserve is Natal Beech -Faurea Saligna – about 25 meters). The forest is characterized by light bulb type of undergrowth and a tendency for layering. There are a variety of different species of wood and shrubs, some of which are more characteristic: The dominant species is Wild Seringa (Burkea africana) with its amazing sculptural crown. Furthermore, different Bush-willow species with their beautiful 4-winged red fry capsules. Especially large seed capsules of almost 10 cm. Length have Large-fruited Bushwillow (Combretum zeyheri). The Peeling Plane tree (Ochna pulchra) with its special peeling bark and fragile branches is also frequent like the 2 species of Monkey- Species of Monkey Orange (Strychnos ssp.) – with their orange-like fruits. You can also see the little Violet tree (Securidaca longipedunculata), with its beautiful violet spring flowers and the regular Round-leaved teak (Pterocarpus rotundifolius) with its round leaves and large flat fry capsules.

Undergrowth: consists mostly of scrub from various Raisin species (Grewia spp). You often also see the special “tree” Poison Leaf (Dichapetalum cymosum), which has a large underground root system, and in the summer it sets just 40 cm. Tall leaves above the ground. The leaves contain flour-acetic acid, which is deadly for cattle but not for wildlife.

Termite-mounds: are spread over the reserve as large, densely populated islands in the otherwise open savannah areas. Termite-mounds are built of clay soil and contain good nutrition from both the plant and the “mushroom gardens” that the termites cultivate in the estate. Termite-mounds are very special ecosystems because the environment is always nutritious, well-ventilated, has a high humidity and a constant temperature throughout the year. Termite-mounds are therefore a very attractive venue for nutritional bushes and trees. There are species such as Buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata), Weeping Wattle (Peltophorum africana, Wild Olive (Olea Europea), Vortemelk Trees, Various Acacia Species. Termite-mounds are also popular with the game that eats the nutritious leaves and seeks hide dense vegetation around the Termite-Mounds.

River: The reserve river is located in the upper part of the Mokolo River and ends in Limpopo. The river is rocky and the water flows fast during the rainy season. The Transvaal milk plum (Engelerophytum magalismontanum) is also found with the yellow strawberries and Transvaal red milkwood (Mimusops zeyheri). The actual broad vegetation is intact and original with the tree River Bushwillow (Combretum erythrophyllum, Wild Olive (Olea Europaea) and Sweet Thorn (Acacia Karroo). There are also other exotic species such as Eucalyptus species and syringe (Melia azedarach) spread along the river.

 

Animals

Frequent animals in the reserve

The reserve has the common wildlife (mammals), which are native and adapted to the Waterberg area. The most common herbs are: Giraffe, Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Blesbok, Impala, Nyala, Eland, Wildebeest, Kudu, Impala, Warthog and others.

Blesbok (4)

There are several predators on the reserve which includes: Lynx, African Wildcat, Civet, Genet, Earthquake, Brown Hyena, Jackal, Bat-eared fox, and occasionally also a Leopard is passing through. The reserve does not have the dangerous Lion and Elephant, so you can walk freely on foot in the reserve.

By the river you can find Crocodile, Cape clawless otter, Water monitor and Hippo, which occasionally pass through.

 

The animals adapt to food and water

Plant eaters have evolved for thousands of years to feed on specialised plant, to the point where they eat plants into their own food niche, to avoid competing too much with other animals.. Animals like kudu and giraffe are “browsers” who eat only leaves. Giraffes take the top layer and the Kudu the layer below, which they can reach.

Habitat 2

The grasses also have divided the grassland between them, such that, for example, Zebra, Hippo and Waterbuck primarily eat the long, dry, nutrient-poor grass, of which they will need a lot (bulk feeders). Other species like wildebeest, Blesbok, Warthog and Hartebeest prefer the green, budding grass of higher nutrient value, of which they do not need so large amounts (concentrate feeders).

Again, other species such as Impala and Eland eat both leaves and grass and are almost generalists (mixed feeders).

Water In the same way, the animals have adapted to the available water. Some species like wildebeest and Zebra must drink every day to thrive, while animals like Giraffe and Eland are much more water independent and may only need to drink once a week.

In summer, the need for drinking water is less, as the leaves contain some water.

Njala (6)

Conclusion

The most important part of Nature Conservation is the preservation of the total ecosystem in a reserve. Shakati is blessed with unique plant communities/habitats, and animal life, food and water habits. We treasure the environment as this is an essential part of our ecosystem

See you next time!

 

Reference

Ecozone See also https://books.google.dk/books?id=W4OCYDg-fOgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=sappie+tree+spotting+bushveld&hl=da&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwje3JTV9pHUAhXMOSwKHbj4AdQQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=sappie%20tree%20spotting%20bushveld&f=true

 

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