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Research article2009Peer reviewed

Herbaceous phytomass and nutrient concentrations of four grass species in Sudanian savanna woodland subjected to recurrent early fire

Savadogo, Patrice; Tigabu, Mulualem; Sawadogo, Louis; Oden, Per Christer


Fire is an integral ecological factor in African savanna ecosystems, but its effects on savanna productivity are highly variable and less understood. We conducted a field experiment to quantify changes in herbaceous phytomass and nutrient composition in a Sudanian savanna woodland subjected to annual early fire from 1993 to 2004. Fire effects were also assessed on two perennial and two annual grass species during the following growing season. Early fire significantly reduced above-ground phytomass of the studied species (P = 0.03), their crude protein (P = 0.022), neutral detergent insoluble crude protein (P = 0.016) and concentrations of Ca, Fe and Mn (P < 0.05). Perennial grasses had higher above-ground phytomass but lower total crude protein and fat than annual grasses. Nonstructural carbohydrates tended to be higher for annuals, while fibre and lignin contents were high for perennials. Except Na and Fe, the concentration of mineral elements varied between species. Fire did not affect measures of digestibility and metabolizable energy, but its effect differed significantly among species. In conclusion, the results illustrate that long-term frequent fire will counterbalance the short-term increase in soil fertility and plant nutrient concentrations claimed to be accrued from single or less frequent fire.


Burkina Faso; digestibility; Pasture quality; savanna productivity

Published in

African Journal of Ecology
2009, Volume: 47, number: 4, pages: 699-710