Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



Large tree species in South Africa face reproductive decline, especially older trees that provide ecosystem connectivity. Management of Balule Nature Reserve, an extensive private nature reserve in South Africa, wanted to investigate the roles rodents play in the recruitment and survival of select tree species. Two large tree species of concern, marula (Sclerocarya birrea) and knobthorn acacia (Acacia nigrescens) are dominant, habitat providers and red bushwillow (Combretum apiculatum) is a smaller and more common, prolific seed producer. I investigated whether rodents, specifically red veld rats and Smith’s bush squirrels, may play a detrimental role in the reproductive cycle of these trees.

Food preference trials were conducted to determine if individuals of these two species had a dietary seed preference by observing seed predation habits. Both species preferentially fed on marula seeds. I tested the efficacy of three different trap types for capturing live rodents in arrays, and I tested the efficacy of the traps used in the grids. Two traps had a higher capture rate in the arrays than expected, and the third trap had a higher capture rate in the grids than expected. These results will help reserve staff to develop a conservation plan for these trees.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Michael Stokes


Animal Sciences | Biology | Life Sciences