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Phylogenetic analysis of plant community assemblages in the Kruger National Park, South Africa

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dc.contributor.advisor Prof. Michelle van der Bank; Prof. Vincent Savolainen en_US
dc.contributor.author Yessoufou, Kowiyou
dc.date.accessioned 2012-08-16T10:18:33Z
dc.date.available 2012-08-16T10:18:33Z
dc.date.issued 2012-08-16
dc.date.submitted 2012-05-23
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/5998
dc.description D.Phil. en_US
dc.description.abstract What underlies species distribution and species coexistence has long been of key interest in community ecology. Several methods and theories have been used to address this question. However, it still remains a controversial debate. The recent development of plant DNA barcodes with possibility of merging phylogeny with ecology brings high expectation in uncovering the processes underlying community assemblages. Previous works that used molecular approach in community ecology focused mainly on rainforests. Using a phylogenetic approach, this study brings novel understandings about savanna ecology, especially regarding how megaherbivores impact plant community composition. The Kruger National Park (KNP) is one of the world’s largest reserves, but less studied from a phylogenetic perspective. A DNA database of 445 DNA sequences (plant DNA barcodes, rbcLa + matK) was generated for the woody plants of the KNP. This database proves reliable in reconstructing the phylogeny of Angiosperms of the park. Based on this phylogeny, the present study characterised plant community composition, and investigated how megaherbivores influence this composition. Results indicate that plant communities in the KNP are not neutral, i.e. they are more clustered than expected under various null models. This suggests that ecological forces, most likely habitat filtering may be playing key role in dictating community structure in the KNP. The KNP is well-known for its richness in megaherbivores. The contribution of these animals to the current shape of plant community structures was therefore further investigated. Where megaherbivores have been excluded, plant diversity decreases, but shifts in plant community structure are contingent upon the initial community composition, suggesting that herbivory might be important filter that drives the clustering pattern observed. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject Plant communities en_US
dc.subject Kruger National Park (South Africa)
dc.subject Cladistic analysis
dc.subject Savanna ecology
dc.subject Herbivores
dc.title Phylogenetic analysis of plant community assemblages in the Kruger National Park, South Africa en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US

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