Bush encroachment


Bush encroachment (also shrub encroachment, woody encroachment) is a natural phenomenon characterised by the increase in density of woody plants (bushes and shrubs) at the expense of the herbaceous layer (grasses and forbs). It is often considered an ecological regime shift and a symptom of land degradation. Bush encroachment is found to have severe negative consequences on key ecosystem services, especially biodiversity, animal habitat, land productivity and groundwater recharge. Bush encroachment can refer both to the expansion of native plants as well as the invasion and spread of invasive species. The phenomenon is observed across different ecosystems and with different characteristics and intensities globally. Among the more severely affected landscapes is the Veld in Southern Africa.

In Africa, tsetse flies spread into the area as the habitat becomes more suitable for them, and cattle are removed from the area either because of the tsetse fly or because of the degraded habitat. Usually at the stage of bush encroachment, animals which are favoured by this development, such as elephant and buffalo, increase; and as these animals overpopulate the area they themselves become an important factor acting on the environment to further degrade it.
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
03.05.1997 – 00:00 CEST