Bushclumps are scattered islands of thicket-like vegetation within a matrix of more open vegetation. We investigated the role of bushclumps as refugia for small mammals, and examined the effect of a limited number of abiotic and biotic factors on their richness, diversity and abundance. Small mammals were surveyed using Sherman small mammal traps at two sites in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa (Mountain Zebra National Park and Kwandwe Private Game Reserve). Soil hardness and seed abundance, inside and outside bushclumps, were determined. Trap success was significantly higher inside bushclumps than in areas outside, and species diversity and the abundance of small mammals were greater within bushclumps compared to outside. Bushclumps also had significantly softer soil and a higher concentration of seeds. We conclude that bushclumps provide a concentrated source of food and protection from predators for small mammals, and are thus used significantly more than adjacent open areas. The conservation of bushclumps is therefore important for the overall maintenance of ecosystem functioning.
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Vol. 43 • No. 2