Effects of prescribed burning on rodent community ecology in Serengeti national park, Tanzania

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Sokoine University of Agriculture


A study on the effects of prescribed burning on rodent community ecology was conducted in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. The study aimed at generating ecological knowledge on the changes in rodent communities when areas of the park are intentionally burned to regulate grasslands or reduce undergrowth that can lead to uncontrolled forest fires. A Complete Randomized Design (CRD) factorial layout with two treatments (burned and unburned) and two replications was applied. A total of 148 animals comprising six species of rodents and one insectivore were captured over 2,940 trap nights. Among the trapped individuals, 41.9% were adults, 16.1% juveniles and 41.9% sub-adults. Males and females were at parity between treatments. Species abundance was estimated using the Minimum Number Alive method for different rodent species and was found to vary with treatment, where Mastomys natalensis declined in burned plots whilst Arvicanthis niloticus increased. However, species diversity did not differ across treatments (F1, 10 = 0.15, p = 0.70). Differences in the reproductive condition of female M. natalensis (z = 4.408, df = 15, p = 0.000) and A. niloticus (z = 2.381, df = 15, p = 0.017) were observed between treatments showing that higher numbers of reproductively active females were observed in burned plots in March, whilst in unburned plots it was from November to February. Conservation strategies involving periodic habitat burning should, therefore, consider small mammal reproductive periods to ensure that potentially at risk species are not adversely affected and able to rapidly recover from the effects of burning on temporarily lowering food resources and longer term impacts of increased predation caused by reduced cover.


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Prescribed burning, Rodent, Community ecology, Serengeti national park, Tanzania