Population status and gender imbalance of the marula tree, Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra in northern Namibia
Authors: Nghitoolwa, Elizabeth; Hall, John; Sinclair, Fergus
Source: Agroforestry Systems, Volume 59, Number 3, November 2003 , pp. 289-294(6)
Abstract:The population status of many wild fruit trees that support rural people in Africa remains poorly understood despite its importance for their management. Here, we establish a baseline for size class distribution and gender ratios for marula (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra), a widespread but sparsely distributed species of wooded farmland, that has both traditional importance to rural communities and an emerging commercial potential. A population of marula trees around two neighbouring villages in northern Namibia was surveyed in August 2001. The stem diameter at 1.3 m height (dbh) of all individuals ≥1 cm dbh in 40 fields, totalling 286 ha in area, was measured and their gender was recorded as female, male or unknown. Over 400 trees were enumerated, the largest >100 cm dbh. Despite the low threshold (1 cm dbh) for inclusion, relatively few trees (around 40%) were <20 cm dbh, suggesting the population may not be self-sustaining. The area was nevertheless well-stocked, with ca 1 tree ha−1 ≥20 cm dbh — an unusually high density for Sclerocarya. Tree gender becomes evident when individuals reach about 15 cm dbh. In one village, the sex ratio of larger trees (40–80 cm dbh) was significantly skewed in favour of females. This was attributed to selective elimination of individuals that have failed to fruit and was much less pronounced in the second village. The sparse distribution and gender imbalance of trees have implications in relation to management requirements for ensuring adequate pollen flow.
Document Type: Research Article
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Publication date: November 1, 2003