Re ECF Project: 2005-07

Project Title: Study upon the Vegetation Effects and Potential Economic Habitat Management Benefits of Introducing Asian Water Buffalo Bubalus bubalis into the Freshwater Ponds at Mai Po Nature Reserve

Applicant: World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (Mr. Bena SMITH)

Total Approved Grant: $148,222.64

Duration: 9/1/2006 to 9/7/2007

Project Status/Remarks: Completed

The objectives of the project are:

  1. To investigate the impact of buffalo grazing upon the composition and structure of freshwater pond bankside and internal vegetation;
  2. To investigate the impact of buffalo grazing upon avifauna; and
  3. To undertake a comparison of the cost effectiveness of habitat management between buffalo and human methods.

Summary of Findings/Outcomes:
The 18-month project provided valuable insight into the effects of buffalo grazing upon birds and vegetation at freshwater ponds. The main findings of interest being:

  • Grazing (at 1 LSU per 1.8 ha area) and manual cutting of vegetation (2-3 times between April to November) created similar mean grass sward heights (~20cm in winter months) and mean grass cover (~47%). Both created a more diverse grass sward structure than non-intervention areas.
  • Grazing created and maintained a mean bare ground cover of ~10% and results suggest it may reduce Phragmites australis stand growth.
  • In non-intervention areas there was a gradual elimination of bare ground cover and an apparent decline in herbaceous species diversity over time
  • Both grazing and manual cutting methods attracted higher bird density and bird species density than non-intervention areas. The grazed area attracted the greatest total number of bird species.

The study had limited achievement of the 3 chosen Indicators of Success. Indicators no. 1 and no. 2 concerning the buffalo's ability to control or diversify vegetation/plant types were both deemed partially achieved either due to a lack of comparative data or unproven differences between grazed and manual treatments. Indicator no. 3 concerning the buffalo's ability to attract a greater number of birds and diversity of bird species, was marginally achieved because bird data did not reveal significant differences in the stated attributes between grazed and manual treatments.