Lecturer in the School of Life Sciences, Ms Sindiso Chamane, won the best poster award at the International Rangeland Congress (IRC) held in Saskatoon, Canada, for her entry based on her PhD research.
Chamane, who is being supervised by Professor Kevin Kirkman, Mr Craig Morris and Professor Tim O’Connor, completed her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at UKZN while her Masters in Grassland Science was a collaborative project with Yale University in the United States.
Chamane’s research - on the effects of short duration, high intensity grazing management on grasslands - has been conducted on an experimental design at Ukulinga Research Farm and Wakefield Farm in Cedarville in the Eastern Cape, on a fence-line contrast on two farms in Kokstad, and at the Michaelhouse Nature Reserve.
Her poster at the IRC was focused on the fence-line study which demonstrates the contrasting use by two neighbouring farmers of high density grazing (HDG) with zero burning and a low density grazing (LDG) with a burning frequency of two to four years. The farmers have been using these management practices for 20 years.
Chamane focused her study on a mesic habitat in what is emerging as a baseline study of contrasting management styles in KwaZulu-Natal, as not many researchers have investigated this.
‘HDG is being recommended as a management style, but there’s concern at the lack of scientific evidence behind it,’ said Chamane. ‘By concentrating grazing animals into camps, HDG is purported to reduce selective grazing, make space for seedling reproduction, break the soil crust to increase soil infiltration and reduce erosion, increase nutrients, improve plant diversity, and preserve moisture.’
Chamane examined species composition and soils, discovering that in a mesic system the LDG site actually had better forage species diversity and good variation of forbs, and that there was no difference in soil nutrient composition. HDG sites also showed increased presence of alien species and a dominance of species that can withstand heavy grazing.
The poster generated considerable attention, with these management systems highly contested among grassland and animal scientists and researchers. There was interest from academics in Australia and Argentina in particular, where similar issues are faced, and many were keen to see her research published.
Winning the best poster award enables Chamane to attend the Australian Rangeland Society’s Biennial Conference in Australia in 2017.