Freshwaters are highly threatened ecosystems, with agro-forestry being a major threat to sub-tropical wetlands. In the Maputaland–Pondoland–Albany global biodiversity hotspot of South Africa, large-scale ecological networks (ENs) of remnant vegetation have been set aside with the aim of mitigating the adverse effects of plantation forestry. However, the effectiveness of these ENs for maintaining freshwater biodiversity, especially that of still waters, is poorly known. In response, we compare mud wallows of large mammals, ponds and small marshes in an EN with those in an adjacent World Heritage Site protected area (PA) as reference. For this comparison we used dragonfly adults in view of their effectiveness as bioindicators. A total of 47 species was recorded at 105 sites. The EN shared 74% of its species with the PA. However, equal numbers of range restricted species were recorded from the EN and the PA. Five species were recorded as particular to the EN and seven to the PA, probably due to habitat heterogeneity across this type of landscape. Pond size, habitat heterogeneity, elevation and dissolved oxygen were important determinants for species richness and diversity. Proximity of plantation trees had only a minor effect, and then only on species composition. Mud wallows were the poorest habitat in terms of dragonfly diversity, owing to the intense disturbance. Wallows, ponds and marshes were largely complementary in their species composition. Overall, the freshwater system in the EN was a good surrogate for that in the PA, indicating the effectiveness of these ENs for maintaining the dragonfly assemblage.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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