Bomas of East Africa

Traditional pastoral practices affect savanna ecological dynamics in Kenya.

Traditional pastoralists in East Africa corralled cattle overnight in brush-lined pens. Over time, the buildup of manure results in fertile hotspots – glades – in the landscape. Eventually, the cattle move on, but they leave behind nutrient-rich patches that can persist for years, even decades. I studied these glades, particularly the trees surrounding them and the geckos living in the trees. We found that trees grew taller near the edge of glades. We also found higher densities of lizards and insects around the edge of the glades. In sum, traditional pastoral practices bolster productivity and add heterogeneity to savannas.


Donihue, C.M., Foufopoulos, J., Riginos, C., Porensky L., Pringle, R.M. 2013. Glade cascades: Indirect legacy effects of pastoralism enhance the abundance and spatial structuring of arboreal fauna. Ecology 94(4) 827-837. [PDF]