Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Chadwick D. Rittenhouse, Isaac M. Ortega, Daniel L. Civco, Izak P. Smit

Field of Study

Natural Resources


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Maintaining habitat heterogeneity is favorable when conserving protected areas due to its positive relationship with biodiversity. Fence removal across protected areas improves connectivity and allows herbivory to occur over a larger landscape extent. In the mid-1990’s, reserves within the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve (K2C) removed their fences, becoming connected to Kruger National Park (KNP). The fundamental research objective was to determine how fence removal influenced the vegetation dynamics within the reserves residing in the K2C. We had three goals: 1) determine if multiple satellite sensors could be used within the TIMESAT program to provide robust vegetation metrics that measure historic vegetation changes, 2) determine if vegetation changes occurred within the reserves after fences were removed, and 3) determine which factors contributed to any vegetation changes that occurred after fence removal. We first developed a continuous 30-year normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) dataset. We then used the vegetation dataset to compare vegetation within the reserves to KNP before and after fence removal. We found reserves had similar vegetation to KNP before fence removal and had different vegetation compared to KNP after fence removal. We found geology, seasonality, and rainfall were associated with vegetation changes. Additionally, we highlight waterpoint density as it can be manipulated by reserve managers. As waterpoint density increased within the reserves, the vegetation metrics and their variability decreased within open reserves but did not change within closed reserves. Reducing waterpoint density within reserves that are open to KNP may help to restore natural heterogeneity within the K2C.

Major Advisor

Chadwick D. Rittenhouse