The Savuti-Mababe-Linyanti ecosystem of northern Botswana: policy implications for management and conservation of an unmodified ecosystem of global scientific significance
The Savuti-Mababe-Linyanti ecosystem (SMLE) consists of extensive woodland landscapes between the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti Swamps (Figure 1) and has a great diversity of seasonal habitats from the extensive pristine wetlands of the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti Swamps to extensive pristine mopane, sandveld and riparian woodlands, as well as the extensive open grasslands and savanna of the Mababe Depression (see the Vegetation and Wildlife Habitats of the Savuti-Mababe-Linyanti ecosystem - Sianga and Fynn in review; Figure 1). This great heterogeneity in functional seasonal habitats, combined with few barriers to wildlife movement and little modification by artificial water, results in exceptional niche diversity for wildlife, which supports great diversity of wildlife and key populations of rare species such as wild dog, roan and sable antelope and eland. A key factor underlying the functional nature of the landscapes of the SMLE is that a large proportion of the woodland landscapes occur greater than 15km from water during the dry season, well beyond the maximum foraging distance from water of the more mobile bull elephant herds (and other large herbivores). This large distance from available water during the dry season creates a spatial refuge in these landscapes where vegetation is spared from excessive impact and degradation by large herbivore populations and also provides niches for rare herbivores that are dependent on these back-country woodlands far from water, such as roan and sable antelope and eland. Of interest is that the greatest proportion of the SMLE is outside of Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve, being mainly in the wildlife management areas of NG 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and CH1,2. This emphasizes that wildlife management areas play a critical role in maintaining the functional nature and wildlife diversity of the northern conservation area of Botswana.