Saturday February 24, 2018

The Marlothii Conservancy

The Marlothii Conservancy is registered with the Mpumalanga Parks Board as an Urban Conservancy and was the first in Mpumalanga to do so. It aims to generate interest and active participation by registered land owners, accredited residents and the business community in the conservation of indigenous and endemic fauna and flora and the protection of the environment in the area based on scientific principles of nature conservation and sustainable utilization of the area's natural resources. The Conservancy exists in partnership with the Marloth Park Honorary Rangers and the Marloth Park Property Owners Association. You can see our registration certificate by clicking here and read a brief historical note by clicking here.

Even one herbivore, confined to an area, will nibble away, preventing any 'rest' period for the plants to grow and renew root vigour. If we started nibbling at growing vegetables in our garden, they would not grow into mature plants and certainly would not reach the stage of producing seed. Exactly the same happens with growing grasses -- they need a rest from grazing and have a time to grow.

The lack of rest and growing time is caused by what is known as 'constant nibble' and in certain cases constant nibble can be effected by only one herbivore. Ecologically, rest time is the important factor and not numbers of grazers.

There are grass species adapted to almost every terrestrial habitat on earth. In 'pioneer' situations the grass forms tend to rely on seed production to carry them over unfavourable conditions.

Most of the pioneer type grasses have narrow leaves, or some other method of cutting down transpiration, and an abundance of pointed shaped seeds that can lodge in bare ground that is often compacted by hooves. Pioneer grasses are generally unpalatable to most grazing animals, thus increasing the grasses chance of survival. Seasonal grasses are termed annuals and they tend to indicate poor veld condition. Marloth Park is a prime example.

Certain other grasses rely on vegetative expansion. These 'creeping' grasses send 'runners' out from an established base. Should the runners encounter a suitable growing patch they will send down roots from the nearest 'node' and establish another plant. An example is the Cynodon spp. Species of this growth form have low, lateral growth, often with a large percentage their mass underground. The leaves of these types of grasses are usually tough and hard to graze resulting average palatability but the juicy root stock, in sandy soils, is utilised by warthogs, mole rats and springhares.

As conditions for growth improve the grass species tend to become broader leafed. The seeds become rounder, enabling them to drop between the increased ground cover. With these grasses becoming more attractive to grazers, animal droppings and hoof action further improve water infiltration, nutrition and other conditions for growth. Panicum spp. and Setaria spp. are typical examples. Where grass plants survive through successive seasons in vegetative form they are termed 'perennial'.

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