The Structure and composition of the woody plant communities of Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
Keywords:Fire management, Miombo, Remote sensing, savanna, woodland
Background: The role of protected areas as sanctuaries for indigenous vegetation in Malawi, particularly miombo woodlands, will become increasingly important in the face of global change and rising human populations. Accurate knowledge of the extent and composition of woody components of plant communities will therefore play a vital part in informing conservation and management initiatives.
Objectives: The aims of this study were to (1) classify, describe and map the
woody plant communities of the Majete Wildlife Reserve (MWR) using a combination of remote sensing and on-the-ground surveys, and (2) to compile an inventory of the tree and shrub species present in MWR.
Methods: A combination of remote sensing and on-the-ground surveys was used to classify, describe and map the woody plant communities of MWR. Additionally, an inventory of the tree and shrub species in each delineated woody plant community was made.
Results: Five distinct woody plant communities, two of which were subdivided into three sub-communities each, were recognised in MWR, and a total of 118 woody plant species within 31 families were identified. A description of the location, structure and species composition of each community is provided. Miombo was the most widespread community (covering 35.9% of the area), while the lower-altitude shrublands and woodlands were the richest floristically.
Conclusion: This information is intended to provide a basis for improved management planning and policy development, including fire management, the placement of infrastructure, and the re-introduction of extirpated mammal species, as well as providing a baseline against which to monitor change. Additionally, this study provided an example of how the combination of remote sensing and ground surveys can provide a rapid and relatively inexpensive method for classifying the woody components of communities at a relatively fine scale over large areas, which may become particularly relevant for developing countries and regions that undergo rapid and constant change.
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