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Biotic Research

The Kruger National Park has a diverse programme of biological research, which has produced a large number of both published and unpublished articles and reports. In addition to internal research activities, a substantial amount of work is undertaken in partnership with prominent international scientists. There has been investigations into the ecology and behaviour of a diverse range of organisms ranging from elephant to scorpions, and hornbills to eagles. More technical studies have included assorted parasitological studies, investigations into the chemical immobilisation of animals, and research into the genetic heritages of different birds and animals.

A substantial focus has been given to exotic (introduced) plant species and the impact that they have had on the Park. Structural analyses of a wide range of different plant communities across different soil substrates have been completed. The Park also participated in the National Bird Atlas programme.

Currently planned projects in the Park concern predation, herbivory, integrated plant-animal systems, disease, nutrient cycling and pollination research. Management-oriented research needs include the illegal exploitation of natural resources (especially medicinal and fuel resources), plant, animal, and problem biota population management, and alien impact research.

The Mpumalanga Parks Board has undertaken research into numerous rare and endangered species. Long term projects include tracking the growth of herbaceous layers in wild areas (1990 onwards); monitoring the Blue Swallow population (from the 1980's); researching amphibian activity in the Blyde River; and conducting general censuses of game distribution. The Board also participated in the National Bird Atlas. They are currently studying the interaction between fire and climate in the region.

ARC/ RFI continue to produce annual ecological reviews and surveys for landowners in the buffer zone of the Biosphere Reserve. Other reports include work on the grazer / browser relationships, bush clearing, aerial censuses, and the driving forces on the savannah ecosystem.

Since 1974, NPDALE have produced a number of short papers on biotic investigations conducted at the Hans Hoheisen Research Station. Of these, three relate to vegetation, and eleven to animal and animal management studies; three are general ecological surveys in the immediate area.

Since 1991, SUNRAE researchers have compiled over 30 articles, 7 reports, 4 proceedings and 12 student theses relating to indigenous flora and fauna as a resource for rural communities. The topics include plant species utilised in the medicinal and curio trade, communal grazing and firewood. Five articles, 2 reports, 3 proceedings and 13 student theses have been produced on ecological issues related to general flora and fauna. Subjects included communal rangeland contribution to biodiversity, the impact of elephant on woody vegetation, and an assortment of comparative studies. One other article, and three student theses have been published on environmental management issues.

The project has plans for a number of post graduate theses: vegetation transitions along the impact gradients from villages; classification of local indigenous trees into functional groups based on their resilience to harvesting for various purposes (fuel, medicinal etc.); an investigation of the diversity of various faunal groups along degradation gradients from villages; and investigating appropriate models for communal lands forming the transition zone of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve.

AWARD has three specific action-research proposals, which have been submitted to potential funders: institutional arrangements for the sustainable management of natural resources in the Sand River Catchment, valuation models for veld resources, and joint harvesting initiatives between communities and private and/or public conservation areas.

The South African Wildlife College has a post graduate student from time to time. Currently the student is investigating the links between rodents, seedling predation and bush encroachment.

Finally, the Ledpidoptera Society of South Africa has indicated an interest in co-ordinating some biodiversity studies.