PROGRAMMES: Mlawula Research
The reserve research programme has included monitoring of climate, soil erosion, water quality, distribution of water within the Siphiso Valley, vegetation, impact of larger herbivores, animal numbers, and, to a limited extent, visitor usage of the reserve.
A population census for larger herbivores is carried out twice a year, by means of road transects. There are a number of problems with the method, due to the terrain, the response of the animals to vehicles, and as a result of uneven distribution of the herbivores within the sampled areas. These counts therefore only serve as a rough guide for management purposes.
Research activities carried out have included the installation of an exclusion plot to monitor the recovery of vegetation when protected from grazing.
Monitoring of vegetation and impact of larger herbivores has been carried out by means of fixed point photos.
The following on-going projects are being carried out by All Out Africa in Mlawula Nature Reserve as part of All Out’s Savanna Conservation Project (www.alloutafrica.com/projects/savanna.aspx):
- fixed point photography in Siphiso and Mbuluzi valleys to monitor ungulate impacts and alien species invasion (Fixed Point Photo example)
Threatened Species Monitoring:
- survival and reproduction of Encephalartos mbuluziensis and E. lubomboensis
- nesting and breeding success of whitebacked vulture and various other raptors
- population monitoring of the bat Nycteris thebiaca
- community structure monitoring of bats
- tortoise population monitoring
- reptile atlassing
Collaborative projects have been carried out with Quest International, including alien plant mapping and control activities, and mapping of the distribution of Encephalartos umbeluziensis.
Various research projects have been carried out at Mlawula over the years, including student projects carried out by UNISWA students. (See Research Projects.)