The impact of black wattle encroachment of indigenous grasslands on soil carbon, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Myles Oelofse, Torben Birch-Thomsen, Jakob Magid, Andreas de Neergaard, Ross van Deventer, Sander Bruun, Trevor Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Black wattle (Acacia mearnsii, De Wild.) is a fast growing tree species introduced into South Africa in the nineteenth century for commercial purposes. While being an important source of timber and firewood for local communities, black wattle is an aggressive invasive species and has pervasive adverse environmental impacts in South Africa. Little is known about the effects of black wattle encroachment on soil carbon, therefore the aim of this study was to investigate the impact of black wattle encroachment of natural grassland on soil carbon stocks and dynamics. Focussing on two sites in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, the study analysed carbon stocks in soil and litter on a chronosequence of black wattle stands of varying ages (up to >50 years) and compared these with adjacent native grassland. The study found that woody encroachment of grassland at one site had an insignificant effect on soil and litter carbon stocks. The second site showed a clear decline in combined soil and litter carbon stocks following wattle encroachment. The lowest stock was in the oldest wattle stand, meaning that carbon stocks are still declining after 50 years of encroachment. The results from the two sites demonstrate the importance of considering changes in soil carbon when evaluating ecosystem effects of invasive species.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)445-456
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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