Worldwide, many rangelands are managed for multiple uses, and it is increasingly important to identify livestock management practices that maximize rangeland productivity, biodiversity, and wildlife conservation. In sub-Saharan Africa, pastoralists and ranchers use temporary thorn-fence corrals (“bomas”) to protect livestock at night. Traditional boma sites (used for months or years, then abandoned) develop into productive ecosystem hotspots (“glades”) that attract diverse wildlife and persist for decades or even centuries. In central Kenya, livestock managers have recently begun using metal-fenced “mobile bomas,” which are moved after only days or weeks. Although the assumption is that mobile boma sites will also develop into glades, whether or not this is true remains unclear. We used a broad-scale manipulative experiment to evaluate the ecosystem-level effects of mobile bomas used for 1 month. We also investigated impacts of initial boma density on glade development. We randomly assigned 12 plots to one of three density treatments: one boma, two bomas 200 m apart, or two bomas 100 m apart. Before the experiment and at 1, 6, 12, 18, and 32 months after boma abandonment, we sampled soil nutrients, foliar nutrients, plant communities, and wildlife use (via dung counts) within abandoned boma sites (experimental glades) and at paired reference sites (200 m away). After 18 months, surface soil nutrient concentrations in experimental glades were similar to those in traditionally formed glades. Experimental glade plant communities became dominated by a palatable, rhizomatous grass species, Cynodon plectostachyus. After 32 months, wildlife use by browsing and mixed feeding ungulates was 9 times higher in experimental glades than at paired reference sites. Boma density had few impacts on within-glade development patterns. These results demonstrate that by concentrating livestock in short-term corrals, managers can create ecosystem hotspots that increase functional heterogeneity, attract wildlife, and provide palatable forage for livestock.
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Vol. 68 • No. 2