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The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

S %19
Ladislav Mucina and Michael C. Rutherford
The vegetation of
South Africa, Lesotho
and Swaziland
S %
© Published by and obtainable from: South African National Biodiversity Institute,
Private Bag X101, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa. Tel: +27 12 843-5000. Fax: +27 12 804-3211.
E-mail: Website:
© Photographs: photographers as cited.
Printed by Tien Wah Press (PTE) Limited, 4 Pandan Crescent, Singapore 128475.
ISBN-13: 978-1-919976-21-1
ISBN-10: 1-919976-21-3
MU CINA, L. & RUTHERFORD, M.C. (eds) 2006. The vegetation of South Africa,
Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute,
This series has replaced Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa and
Annals of Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens
which SANBI inherited from its predeces-
sor organisations.
The plant genus Strelitzia occurs naturally in the eastern parts of southern Africa.
It comprises three arborescent species, known as wild bananas, and two acaules-
cent species, known as crane flowers or bird-of-paradise flowers. The logo of the
South African National Biodiversity Institute is based on the striking inflorescence of
Strelitzia reginae, a native of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal that has become
a garden favourite worldwide. It symbolises the commitment of the Institute to pro-
mote the sustainable use, conservation, appreciation and enjoyment of the excep-
tionally rich biodiversity of South Africa, for the benefit of all people.
L. Mucina
Department of Botany & Zoology, Stellenbosch University
M.C. Rutherford
Kirstenbosch Research Centre, South African National Biodiversity Institute
TECHNICAL EDITING: G. Germishuizen and E. du Plessis
PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT, DESIGN, Keith Phillips Images, PO Box 5683,
LAYOUT AND REPRODUCTION: Helderberg, 7135 South Africa
COVER DESIGN: Keith Phillips
(Fynbos vegetation dominated by
Leucadendron laureolum on the
northern slopes of the Riviersonderend
Mountains, Western Cape)
Janine B. Adams
Robert J. Anderson
Ronald G. Bennett
Hugo Bezuidenhout
John J. Bolton
Thomas G. Bornman
Charles Boucher
George J. Bredenkamp
John E. Burrows
Kelson G.T. Camp
Sarel S. Cilliers
Richard M. Cowling
Willem de Frey
Philip G. Desmet
Linda Dobson
Anthony P. Dold
Amanda Driver
P. Johann du Preez
Holger C. Eckhardt
Freddie Ellis
Karen J. Esler
Doug I.W. Euston-Brown
Coert J. Geldenhuys
Jacques Gerber
Peter S. Goodman
André Grobler
Nick Helme
Barend J. Henning
David B. Hoare
Brian J. Huntley
P. Johan H. Hurter
John A.M. Janssen
Steven D. Johnson
Zuziwe Jonas
Norbert Jürgens
Irma C. Knevel
Khotso Kobisi
Lerato Kose
Jan J.N. Lambrechts
Annelise le Roux
Richard G. Lechmere-Oertel
J. Wendy Lloyd
Amanda T. Lombard
Mervyn C. Lötter
J.-Wouter Lubbinge
John C. Manning
Wayne S. Matthews
David J. McDonald
Bruce McKenzie
Guy F. Midgley
Susanne J. Milton
Bulelwa Mohamed
Theo H. Mostert
Ladislav Mucina
Carl Oellermann
Edward G.H. (Ted) Oliver
Anthony R. Palmer
Michele Pfab
Leslie W. Powrie
Şerban M. Procheş
Frans G.T. Radloff
Anthony G. Rebelo
Belinda Reyers
David M. Richardson
Riaan Robesson
Mathieu Rouget
Michael C. Rutherford
Ernst Schmidt
Ute Schmiedel
Robert J. Scholes
Louis Scott
C. Robert Scott-Shaw
Erwin J.J. Sieben
Frances Siebert
Stefan J. Siebert
Andrew L. Skowno
Jacobus H.L. Smit
Walter J. Smit
Valdon R. Smith
Marc Stalmans
Simon W. Todd
Bertie van der Merwe
Johannes H. van der Merwe
Adriaan van Niekerk
Noel van Rooyen
Erich van Wyk
Catharina E. Venter
Jan H.J. Vlok
Graham P. von Maltitz
Benjamin A. Walton
Robert A. Ward
Sandra Williamson
Pieter J.D. Winter
Nick Zambatis
e Authors
Authors who participated in the mapping project and/or the text of the Book,
alphabetical according to surname.
Foreword vii
1 Introduction 2
2 The Logic of the Map: Approaches and
Procedures 12
3 Biomes and Bioregions of Southern Africa 30
4 Fynbos Biome 52
5 Succulent Karoo Biome 220
6 Desert Biome 300
7 Nama-Karoo Biome 324
8 Grassland Biome 348
9 Savanna Biome 438
10 Albany Thicket Biome 540
11 Indian Ocean Coastal Belt 568
12 Afrotemperate, Subtropical and Azonal
Forests 584
13 Inland Azonal Vegetation 616
14 Coastal Vegetation of South Africa 658
15 Vegetation of Subantarctic Marion and
Prince Edward Islands
16 Ecosystem Status and Protection Levels of
Vegetation Types 724
17 Vulnerability Assessment of Vegetation
Types 738
18 Vegetation Atlas of South Africa, Lesotho
and Swaziland 748
Glossary of Selected Scientific and Vernacular
Terms 791
Index 801
K. Phillips
Why another vegetation map of South Africa, especially considering that Acocks (1953) Veld types of South
Africa has served two generations of scientists so well?
One answer to this, and to most questions on the purpose of scientific endeavour, is that we live in a
knowledge-driven society, where informed, environmentally sensitive and rational decisions are the cornerstones
of sustainable socio-economic development. But more directly, despite the utility of Acocks’s map for more
than half a century, our knowledge base, technologies and demands for detailed spatial information on natural
resources make a new, spatially detailed map and description of our vegetation both possible and necessary.
South Africa and the continent as a whole have set ambitious development goals for the ‘African
Century’, goals which simply cannot be met without an underpinning of sound decision support. Such growth
initiatives, infrastructure needs and wise land use demands were behind the establishment, in 2004, of the South
African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the successor to the former National Botanical Institute (NBI)
which itself had roots in the Botanical Research Institute and the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa,
established in 1903 and 1913 respectively.
The parliamentary mandate given SANBI through the Biodiversity Act of 2004 includes monitoring and
reporting on the status of the Republic’s biodiversity, the conservation status of species and ecosystems, and on
the diverse impacts on these. Such reporting requires a detailed vegetation baseline and an understanding of the
dynamics of constituent ecosystems. The production of The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
(which includes the new Map) is therefore particularly timely, given the high expectations placed by our stake-
holders on SANBI and our many partners in biodiversity science.
This volume marks yet another major milestone in the history of biodiversity knowledge development
in southern Africa. Over the past two centuries, the process of discovery, description, evaluation and synthesis
of information on and understanding of our flora and vegetation has followed a regular cycle. Benchmarks along
the way include the early botanical explorations of Thunberg, Sparrman, Masson and others at the close of the
18th century, the publication of Flora capensis from the mid-19th
century (Harvey & Sonder 1859–1860), the
pioneer ecological studies of Marloth, Bews and Adamson in the early 20th century, and the production of the
first vegetation map for the country by Pole Evans in 1936.
A new wave of field work and synthesis came with Acockss 1953 map, and the stimulus to plant
taxonomy anticipated by the launch of the Flora of southern Africa project in the 1960s. The taxonomic agenda
of the late 20th century has focussed on regional floras (Bond & Goldblatt 1984, Retief & Herman 1997, Goldblatt
& Manning 2000) and some major monographs (Van Jaarsveld 1994, Goldblatt & Manning 1998, Smith & Van
Wyk 1998, Linder & Kurzweil 1999, Van Jaarsveld & Koutnik 2004). Towards the end of the 20th century, slow
progress with the Flora of southern Africa project resulted in a decision to prepare a ‘Concise flora of southern
Africa’ while a regional programme of taxonomic capacity building—SABONET—addressed the human and
institutional resource needs in this field of botany. Significant results of these initiatives are illustrated in the two
mega-volumes published this year—Checklist of flowering plants of Sub-Saharan Africa (Klopper et al. 2006)
and A checklist of South African plants (Germishuizen et al. 2006).
Research on the structure and function of South African ecosystems received a significant stimulus
during the 1970s and 1980s, through a network of major interdisciplinary studies in the Savanna, Fynbos and
Karoo Biomes, leading to several comprehensive syntheses on these (Cowling 1992, Scholes & Walker 1993, Dean
& Milton 1999). Cowling et al. (1997) drew together the findings of the surge of ecological activity during these
two decades in the multi-authored Vegetation of southern Africa, a classic synthesis with few equals elsewhere
around the globe.
The succession of field research and resulting taxonomic and ecological syntheses prompted the need
for a new generation vegetation map and descriptive memoir. While vegetation surveys had been active through
the later decades of the 20th century, they had been widely scattered and unco-ordinated—responding to the
needs of conservation agencies and land use planners rather than to establishing an integrated regional synthesis.
In 1996 the VEGMAP Project was initiated to prepare a successor to Veld types of South Africa.
Acocks’s (1953) classic study was the last of the great, single-authored works on the flora or vegetation
of South Africa. By the turn of the 20th century, South Africa had built an uncommon ability, by global standards, to
bring together large teams of natural scientists to tackle national priorities. The power of electronic information
management, while never able to replace the critical importance of humble field natural history observations,
has nevertheless made possible the collection and integration of vast databases—not achievable just a few dec-
ades ago. In particular, the power of Geographical Information Systems has aided the immense task of integrating
spatial information at widely differing scales and detail.
The task of preparing a new Vegetation Map fell to a succession of co-ordinators, and acknowledgement
should be made to the initial work of David McDonald and Michael O’Callaghan. It soon became clear that a
full-time commitment to the project was needed, and Michael Rutherford’s wide experience in southern African
vegetation science made him an obvious candidate. In assembling a team of about 100 contributors, further
support in the huge task of synthesising diverse datasets was essential, and the wealth of experience of Ladislav
Mucina, who had then recently arrived in South Africa from Europe, was perfectly timed.
The VEGMAP Project soon grew into a major intellectual and organisational challenge. The sheer vol
ume of field data, the diversity of vegetation classification and mapping methodologies used, and the 10 000 spe-
cies included in the survey data, extended the project well beyond its initial five-year timeframe. But the resulting
map, released ahead of this descriptive memoir, is already finding wide application and great utility in both its
hard copy and electronic formats.
SANBI can be justly proud of the achievements of its professional staff, and those of its many collaborating
institutions, as it faces the demands of the new century. This volume, which includes the map, will most surely
serve South Africa and beyond as effectively as its remarkable predecessor, Acocks’s Veld types. The advantages
of electronic information systems will allow more regular revisions to both the map and the memoir than was
possible for Veld types, and users are encouraged to communicate with SANBI should they have suggestions on
improvements to future versions of this study.
The continuing support of the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and of the
Norwegian Government to this project, is gratefully acknowledged. Special tribute should also be paid to the
many dozens of dedicated fieldworkers whose collective toil under the African sun is reflected in this remarkable
Brian J. Huntley
Chief Executive
South African National Biodiversity Institute
August 2006
Acocks, J.P.H. 1953. Veld types of South Africa. Mem. Bot. Surv. S.
Afr. No. 28: 1–192.
Bond, P. & Goldblatt, P. 1984. Plants of the Cape flora. A descriptive
catalogue. J. S. Afr. Bot. Suppl. Vol. 13: 1–455.
Cowling, R.M. (ed.) 1992. The ecology of fynbos: nutrients, fire and
diversity. Oxford Univ. Press, Cape Town.
Cowling, R.M., Richardson, D.M. & Pierce, S.M. (eds) 1997. Vegetation
of southern Africa. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.
Dean, W.R.J. & Milton, S.J. (eds) 1999. The Karoo: ecological patterns
and processes. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.
Germishuizen, G., Meyer, N.L., Steenkamp, Y. & Keith, M. (eds) 2006.
A checklist of South African plants. Southern African Botanical
Diversity Network Report No. 41: 1–1126. SABONET, Pretoria.
Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 1998. Gladiolus in southern Africa.
Fernwood Press, Cape Town.
Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the
Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute
and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Pretoria & St Louis.
Harvey, W.H. & Sonder, O.W. 1859–1860. Flora capensis: being a
description of the plants of the Cape Colony, Caffraria & Port Natal.
Volume I. Ranunculaceae to Connaraceae, pp. 1–384. Hodges,
Smith & Co., Dublin.
Klopper, R.R., Chatelain, C., Bänninger, V., Habashi, C., Steyn, H.M.,
De Wet, B.C., Arnold, T.H., Gautier, L., Smith, G.F. & Spichiger, R.
2006. Checklist of the flowering plants of Sub-Saharan Africa. An
index of accepted names and synonyms. Southern African Botanical
Diversity Network Report No. 42: 1–894. SABONET, Pretoria.
Linder, H.P. & Kurzweil, H. 1999. Orchids of southern Africa. A.A.
Balkema, Rotterdam.
Retief, E. & Herman, P.P.J. 1997. Plants of the northern provinces of
South Africa: keys and diagnostic characters. Strelitzia 6: 1–681.
National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
Scholes, R.J. & Walker, B.H. 1993. An African savanna: synthesis of the
Nylsvley study. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.
Smith, G.F. & Van Wyk, B-E. 1998. Asphodelaceae. In: K. Kubitzki
(ed.), The families and genera of vascular plants. Flowering plants,
Monocotyledons. Lilianae (except Orchidaceae), Vol. 3: 130–140.
Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 1994. Gasterias of South Africa. Fernwood Press, in
association with the National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
Van Jaarsveld, E.J. & Koutnik, D. 2004. Cotyledon and Tylecodon.
Umdaus Press, Hatfield.
... The Limpopo River Basin essentially comprises 3 vegetation biomes, Savannah, Grassland, and Indian Ocean Coastal Belt. The WWF terrestrial ecoregions (Ohlson et al., 2001), Limpopo Basin Level 1 ecoregions (Kleynhans reference), and Bioregions from Mucina & Rutherford (2006;2012;2018 update) were used for additional detail of terrestrial vegetation distribution within the catchment. These vegetation units, while broad, set the scene for components of the riparian floras, especially those associated with banks and less frequently inundated fluvial features, but do not adequately described the complete characteristics of riparian and wetland flora. ...
... Descriptions of the ecoregions are summarized from the WWF in section 5 (Ohlson et al., 2001) and spatial data are shown in Figure 5.1 (and replicated below). In addition, Level 1 Ecoregions were composed for the Limpopo Basin for this project by Kleynhans (2020, get ref; Figure 5.2), and Bioregions are shown for the South African portion of the Basin (Mucina & Rutherford, 2006;SANBI, 2012;Figure 5.3). The natural condition of riparian zones would vary according to river and stage type. ...
... The vegetation Bioregions of the South African portion of the Limpopo Basin are shown in Figure 5.3 (SANBI, 2018). The Bioregion descriptions tie in well with both the Level 1 Ecoregions ( Figure 5.2) and the WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions ( Figure 5.1), but notable is Alluvial Vegetation, and more specifically Subtropical Alluvial Vegetation (Aza 7; Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). This unit comprises flat alluvial riverine terraces that support a complex of macrophytic vegetation, marginal reedbeds, extensive flooded grasslands, ephemeral herblands and riverine thickets. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
e-flows for the Limpopo River in southern Africa. This report contains the specialist literature review as well as detailed data on the drivers and response indicators for the river ecosystem
... By the mid 1990's, the cultivated area in Namaqualand had declined by nearly two-thirds (Hoffman & Rohde, 2007), and by 2007 the area under wheat production in the Karoo had declined to around 14%, and by 2002 the area under Lucerne was down to under 30% .The Namaqualand Granite Renosterveld, has seen over 20% of its area transformed by agriculture (Helme & Desmet, 2006). The other vegetation type, Hardeveld, has 5 -6% of the area transformed by cultivation Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). However, in the past, lands on the periphery would also be cultivated for a couple of years and then abandoned, suggesting that the total area of cultivated land since the 19 th century is considerably greater than the area of land cultivated in any particular year (Hoffman & Rohde, 2007). ...
... This is similar to the fire management cycle of no less than eights years in Overberg Renosterveld in Bontebok National Park (Kraaij, 2010), whilst findings on Roggeveld Mountain Renosterveld found that vegetation condition declines after ten years (Van Der Robertson area. All three of these units are quite distinct and unrelated to one another (Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). The Renosterveld in this study falls within the more arid zone of Renosterveld distribution, receiving approximately 380 mm per year, whereas other Renosterveld vegetation types receive well over 400 mm per year. ...
... The village of Tweeriver is located in Namaqualand Klipkoppe Shrubland, with patches of Namaqualand Blomveld vegetation type in lower areas. Both of these vegetation types form part of the Succulent Karoo Biome (Mucina & Rutherford, 2006), but are not viewed as separate vegetation types in this study and are forthwith defined as 'Hardeveld' (Figure 1.2). ...
Full-text available
This thesis investigated the impact of cultivation, and the efficiency of passive and active restoration of fallow fields, in Namaqualand’s Hardeveld and Renosterveld vegetation communities. The core theory of this thesis lies in the ecology of semi-arid environments and the concept of patch dynamics. In such areas plants grow together, creating communities with a distinct patch/inter-patch structure. Patches of vegetation concentrate more organic matter, nutrients and moisture, in ‘islands of fertility’ as well as providing protection for seedlings from harsh elements, trampling and herbivory. The objectives of this thesis are to assess the efficacy of passive restoration and why it might not work, and to explore the value of patch dynamics as a theoretical framework for developing restoration approaches. I used these ideas in three separate studies as they pertain to two main vegetation types in the Kamiesberg area of Namaqualand, South Africa. These are the Kamiesberg Mountain Renosterveld surrounding the village of Leliefontein, and Hardeveld vegetation surrounding the village of Tweeriver. Both vegetation types are located within the Leliefontein commonage, are subjected to the same disturbance patterns and occur on the same underlying geology with similar soils, but are differentiated by their altitude and rainfall. In the first study I tested the hypothesis that cultivation had removed and compromised the structure and functioning of patches, and that these features do not improve over time. In each vegetation type, I surveyed a 100 m vegetation transect on four fields in two age classes respectively. The age classes represented fallow lands that had not been cultivated for a period of 7 – 20 years (“young fields”) and 30 – 60 (“old fields”) years. This was compared to eight, 100 m transects taken from intact communities under two different grazing pressures. These are communal land which was exposed to regular, even daily, grazing and private farms which experience rotational grazing and lower grazing pressure. The transects recorded all perennial species in the growth forms of herbs, grasses, small and medium leaf succulents, stem succulents, and small and medium non-leaf succulent shrubs. The results indicated that passive restoration is not effective in either vegetation type, as fallow fields rested between 7 to 60 years were not distinguishable from each other, suggesting that there had been no improvement over time. The removal of a diverse community through ploughing leads to the establishment by pioneer plants of Dicerothamnus rhinocerotis (renosterbos) and Galenia africana (kraalbos), with few other species occurring in the landscape. The dominance of these two species persists for decades. In this first study I also tested the hypothesis that the recovery of vegetation on fallow fields in Namaqualand is hindered by a decline in soil condition and the removal of fertile islands in the landscape. In each vegetation type, on three old fields, and on three intact communities, soil samples were taken from between shrubs (three samples) and from under the dominant patch-forming shrubs (three samples) respectively, to determine the role that plant patches have on the formation of fertile islands beneath their canopies. Results indicate that soil characteristics are substantially altered after cultivation. Even after decades, the levels of organic matter and nutrients in old lands of both vegetation types are lower than in the intact community. In Hardeveld there was evidence that the pioneer shrub, kraalbos, does create a fertile island under its canopies, gradually accumulating organic matter and carbon, but at very low levels. G. africana also increased the pH and phosphorus levels beyond levels found in the pre-disturbed system. In Renosterveld vegetation, soils on fallow fields showed no signs of fertile island formation or improvement in soil nutrients. In the second study, which was undertaken in a greenhouse, I tested the hypothesis that the recovery of fallow fields is hindered by a depleted perennial soil seed bank. In each vegetation type, seedlings that germinated from the top 5 cm of soil collected from beneath and around the edge of 12 plant patches from four land types (young and old fields, and communal and private reference farms) were identified and classed into the same growth forms as listed earlier. The results supported the hypothesis, as the seed bank on fallow fields consisted almost entirely of annuals with kraalbos and renosterbos the only perennial plants to germinate. In the final study I set up factorial restoration experiments in the field at three sites in each of the two vegetation types, and tested the efficacy of different restoration interventions on perennial species over a three year period. Each treatment contained 45 replicates. The species were grouped into four growth form types: grasses, herbs, leaf succulent shrubs and non-leaf succulent shrubs. In Hardeveld, succulent shrubs and grasses established well, whilst in Renosterveld it was grasses and herbs that were most successful. The experiment used pioneer plants to establish the original community. The thesis hypothesized that pioneer plants create a fertile island under their canopies and that this could be used to improve seedling establishment success. This was done by sowing seeds in open control plots and plots where the above ground portion of kraalbos and renosterbos were removed. The results did not support this hypothesis as there was no noticeable benefit to seedlings growing on a fertile island plot as compared to an open area. I also hypothesized that adding fertilizer (nutrients) would increase the success of seedling establishment because this would re-create the more nutrient rich patch environment seedlings would be growing in. Results show that it was only succulent shrubs (Hardeveld) and grasses (Renosterveld) that responded significantly to nutrient addition. The other growth forms had no noticeable benefit. The most unexpected result was that this treatment resulted in a decline of herb seedlings in Renosterveld. To test the hypothesis that nurse plants or shelters play an important role in restoration success, unsheltered control plots were compared to plots sheltered with brush packs, square boxes or a pioneer nurse plant. Results supported this hypothesis, as box and brush pack treatments were successful in increasing seedling numbers. In the Hardeveld, boxes were very effective for non-succulent shrubs, succulent shrubs, and grasses. In Renosterveld, there was a clear preference by all growth forms for brush pack shelters, whilst the open boxes did not have much influence. Finally, I hypothesized that a nurse plant would facilitate seedling establishment, if there is no competition between the seedling and the nurse plant. Kraalbos, as a nurse plant, provided no noticeable benefit to seedling establishment as they had similar results to unsheltered controls for all growth forms. The only indication of facilitation by a nurse plant was with renosterbos and herb seedlings. In this thesis, I contribute conceptually and theoretically to our understanding of patch dynamics, by analysing their role in intact systems and how these dynamics recover over time after degradation. Passive recovery of Renosterveld and Hardeveld has not occurred in the vegetation types and areas that I surveyed. Without active re-introduction of perennial seeds to fallow lands seed will not reach these fields. Although soil condition was seen to be improving under kraalbos, the high pH and phosphorous restrict plant growth of the original community. In Renosterveld, the fertile island does not re-form. Results from this study show that different treatments have different outcomes in different vegetation types. Restoration practitioners should carefully consider the environment they are working in, as well as consider the requirements of different growth forms in restoration planning. Some growth forms establish well initially and focus should be to return these first, in order to improve cost effectiveness. In the Hardeveld succulent shrubs and grasses established well over the three years and in Renosterveld it was grasses and herbs.
... According to a nearby rainfall station at Mahlangeni in the Kruger National Park, the area receives a mean annual precipitation (MAP) of 467 mm. Rainfall is highly seasonal, falling in the form of thunderstorms during the spring-summer months of October to March [43,44]. Temperatures are high in summer and mild in winter with a mean annual temperature of 21.6 • C [43,45]. ...
... Rainfall is highly seasonal, falling in the form of thunderstorms during the spring-summer months of October to March [43,44]. Temperatures are high in summer and mild in winter with a mean annual temperature of 21.6 • C [43,45]. The landscape is mostly flat and homogeneous with Goudplaats and Makhutswi Gneiss underlying shallow and well drained red-yellow apedal soils [43]. ...
... Temperatures are high in summer and mild in winter with a mean annual temperature of 21.6 • C [43,45]. The landscape is mostly flat and homogeneous with Goudplaats and Makhutswi Gneiss underlying shallow and well drained red-yellow apedal soils [43]. The seasonal Klein Letaba river, which is a tributary of the Letaba River, is situated adjacent to the site. ...
Full-text available
Over the past century, increases in indigenous woody plant species, also known as woody encroachment (WE), has occurred in grasslands and savannas across the globe. While the impact on grassland and savanna composition and productivity has been well studied, little is known of the impacts on the hydrological cycle. WE may increase evapotranspiration (ET) losses, leading to reduced infiltration and ultimately reduced freshwater availability, which is of particular concern in arid and semi-arid areas. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of Colophospermum mopane (mopane) encroachment on ET in a semi-arid savanna located in South Africa. Mopane is widely distributed across southern Africa, and is one of the main encroaching species of the region. Following an assessment of the validity of two surface renewal approaches, SR1 and SRDT, against short eddy covariance campaigns for sensible heat flux estimation, the SR1 approach was used to estimate ET at an experimental woody plant clearing trial from November 2019 to July 2022. For the two drier years of the study, the removal of mopane trees had little effect on ET. However, for the wettest year of the study, the removal of mopane trees decreased ET by 12%, supporting the hypothesis that the conversion from grass dominance to woody dominance can increase ET. Annual ET exceeded annual rainfall in all 3 years, indicating that the vegetation supplements its water use with soil water that has accumulated during previous wet seasons, or that tree roots facilitate hydraulic lift of deep soil water, or groundwater, to depths within the rooting depth of both trees and grasses. Further research is needed to confirm the exact mechanism involved, and the consequences of this for groundwater and streamflow at landscape scales.
... The area consists of natural vegetation forming a mosaic, highly fragmented by livestock (e.g. cattle (Bos taurus, Linnaeus, 1758), horses (Equus ferus caballus, Linnaeus, 1758), sheep (Ovis aries, Linnaeus, 1758), goats (Capra hircus, Linnaeus, 1758), pigs (Sus domesticus, Erxleben, 1777)), fruit, and other crop farmlands in and around mountainous terrain (Linder, 1976;Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). ...
... Privately owned areas included were Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, community owned land used for the harvesting of rooibos and limited pastoralism by subsistence farmers, and the Cederberg Conservancy, consisting of pro-conservation farms that are used for ecotourism and largely kept in a natural ecological state. The two main biomes present are Fynbos and Succulent Karoo in mountainous terrain (Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). ...
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Apex predators ideally require vast intact spaces that support sufficient prey abundances to sustain them. In a developing world, however, it is becoming extremely difficult to maintain large enough areas to facilitate apex predators outside of protected regions. Free-roaming leopards ( Panthera pardus ) are the last remaining apex predator in the Greater Cape Floristic Region, South Africa, and face a multitude of threats attributable to competition for space and resources with humans. Using camera-trap data, we investigated the influence of anthropogenic land modification on leopards and the availability of their natural prey species in two contrasting communities—primarily protected (Cederberg) and agriculturally transformed (Piketberg). Potential prey species composition and diversity were determined, to indicate prey availability in each region. Factors influencing spatial utilisation by leopards and their main prey species were also assessed. Estimated potential prey species richness (Cederberg = 27, Piketberg = 26) and diversity indices (Cederberg— H′ = 2.64, Ds = 0.90; Piketberg— H′ = 2.46, Ds = 0.89), supported by both the Jaccard’s Index ( J = 0.73) and Sørensen’s Coefficient ( CC = 0.85), suggested high levels of similarity across the two regions. Main leopard prey species were present in both regions, but their relative abundances differed. Grey rhebok, klipspringer, and rock hyrax were more abundant in the Cederberg, while Cape grysbok, Cape porcupine, chacma baboon, and common duiker were more abundant in Piketberg. Leopards persisted across the agriculturally transformed landscape despite these differences. Occupancy modelling revealed that the spatial dynamics of leopards differed between the two regions, except for both populations preferring areas further away from human habitation. Overall, anthropogenic factors played a greater role in affecting spatial utilisation by leopards and their main prey species in the transformed region, whereas environmental factors had a stronger influence in the protected region. We argue that greater utilisation of alternative main prey species to those preferred in the protected region, including livestock, likely facilitates the persistence of leopards in the transformed region, and believe that this has further implications for human-wildlife conflict. Our study provides a baseline understanding of the potential direct and indirect impacts of agricultural landscape transformation on the behaviour of leopards and shows that heavily modified lands have the potential to facilitate mammalian diversity, including apex predators. We iterate that conservation measures for apex predators should be prioritised where they are present on working lands, and encourage the collaborative development of customised, cost-effective, multi-species conflict management approaches that facilitate coexistence.
... From a terrestrial perspective, the catchment is dominated by 2 vegetation Biomes: Savannah (more than 60%) on the western side and Indian Ocean Coastal Belt on the eastern side (Mucina & Rutherford 2006;. A small amount of Grassland Biome occurs in the southern regions and supports a high density of seep wetlands, which are vital for base flow maintenance. ...
... The extensive vegetation biomes in the Limpopo Basin, i.e., as already mentioned earlier; Savanna (more than 60%) on the western side and Indian Ocean Coastal Belt on the eastern side (Mucina & Rutherford 2006; and Grassland occurring in the southern regions with a high density of seep wetland vegetation means a huge production of biomass, as well as production of atmospheric oxygen which is a by-product of the process of photosynthesis. This vegetation aids in soil formation and retention and nutrient cycling as the biomass decomposes and become part of the soil. ...
Technical Report
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Citation: Dickens, C.; Mukuyu, P.; Ndlovu, B.; O'Brien, G.; Stassen, R.; Magombeyi, M. 2020. E-flows for the Limpopo River in southern Africa - this report describes the vision that exists in policy for these e-flows.
... The village, with coordinates 31° 40' 28" S and 26° 50' 10" E is 50 km southeast of Queenstown and 1477 m above sea level. Summer and winter average temperatures are 20°C and 11°C, respectively, while annual rainfall ranges from 430 to 790 mm, with the majority falling between October and March (Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). The bedrock geology consists of sandstones and mudstones, while soils are shallow, stoney (Falayi et al., 2020), slightly acidic with 0.1% N, 0.001% P, and 0.8% C (Ruwanza, 2022). ...
... The bedrock geology consists of sandstones and mudstones, while soils are shallow, stoney (Falayi et al., 2020), slightly acidic with 0.1% N, 0.001% P, and 0.8% C (Ruwanza, 2022). The vegetation is classified as Tsomo grassland dominated by grassland and open thornveld (Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). Households in these communal areas are dependent on both crop and livestock production. ...
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The potential of using winter forages as a cheap, high-quality winter supplement has been investigated at an experimental level with positive results. There is no information on the extent, practices, and challenges of winter forage production by communal farmers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. In this study, we assess farmers’ knowledge and perceptions of winter forage production and the challenges that come with it, as well as the perceived benefits of communal sheep production. A total of 32 sheep farmers involved in winter forage cultivation were interviewed using a structured questionnaire in Swartwater village. Descriptive statistics were generated using SPSS 20 and categorical variables were evaluated using frequencies. Lambing was reported to be prevalent in June (36%), and poor nutrition was believed to be responsible for the high lamb mortality (42%). All respondents were supplementing mainly with maize grain (26%) and planted forages (26%). Oats (52%), radish (18%), and barley (14%) were the most planted forage species. Improved wool quality (22%) and ewe body condition (21%) were some of the benefits associated with winter forage production. For a wider adoption of forage production, the reported challenges of moisture stress (57%) and poor government support (19%) need to be addressed, and furthermore, farmer training and information sharing would speed up the process. In order to promote winter forage cultivation and integrate it into communal area farming systems, we propose further studies on proper planting guidelines to generate information to support context—specific production strategies.
... The study area is the Indian Ocean Coastal Belt (IOCB), a relatively small biome with high human population density and high biodiversity (Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). The study area is experiencing rapid changes in land cover and land use (Jewitt et al., 2015), and urban foraging is common in this area (Sardeshpande & Shackleton, 2020a). ...
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Urban foraging is a global informal phenomenon which has been investigated in the Global North more than other parts of the world. Characterising the nature of urban foraging in the Global South is imperative given the rapid urbanisation and sustainable development priorities in the region. In this study, we interviewed 80 urban foragers in four cities in the eastern coastal region of South Africa, with an aim to understand the nature of urban foraging in a developing nation context. We asked foragers about their initiation to and motivations for foraging, their logistics, yields and associated activities, descriptions of their foraging grounds, and if and how they had changed, and what they envisage as an ideal future for foraging. Many foragers started foraging in their childhood, in the company of friends and family, and, as in the Global North, regarded it as a cultural and recreational activity. Foraging was mostly done within a 5‐km radius of home, on a weekly or fortnightly basis, and very few foragers processed or sold their foraged products. Unlike the Global North, formal green spaces were not foraged in, and were perceived to be poorly provisioned in urban planning. Forests and roadsides were equally used by the foragers, and very few had been discouraged from foraging. Most foragers were enthusiastic about the possibility of more people foraging, having designated spaces for foraging, and foraging‐based businesses such as processed products and ecotourism. We recommend that policymakers and land managers recognise and encourage foraging as a potentially sustainable use for stewardship of urban green spaces. To this end, we list the main wild edible fruit species used by foragers in the area, which could be planted in public spaces. We also suggest harnessing foragers' knowledge of useful species and spaces to develop green spaces and foraging‐based supply chains. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
... These crop elds were rst established in 1963 (J.M. Coetzer, personal communication, April 2021). This area falls in the Grassland Biome and is represented by the Karoo Escarpment Grassland vegetation type (mixture of shrubs and grasses; Mucina & Rutherford, 2006). The geology of the region is represented by the Adelaide subgroup of the Beaufort Group of sedimentary layers, as well as Karoo Dolerite intrusions (Council for Geoscience, 2021). ...
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Changing land-use practices has led to an increased rate of cropland abandonment in South Africa. Several soil quality studies have been conducted in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, mainly focusing on the impact of different cropping strategies on soil quality or the effect of different grazing practices on soil quality, only a few focusing on the effect of cropland abandonment and soil quality. We, therefore, aimed to assess the change in soil quality of differently aged, recovering old crop fields compared to the surrounding natural veld. The study site is located in the Winterberg Mountains of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Standard soil characteristics were assessed for three recovering old crop fields. Samples from the surrounding natural habitat were also included for comparison. Significant positive change in soil water-holding capacity and carbon and nitrogen characteristics were observed with increased age since abandonment. Soil recovery is clearly taking place. It will, however, still take a significant amount of time for total recovery to be achieved. Continuous monitoring of old crop fields in agricultural, as well as, formally protected areas is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of cropping on soil quality in this region.
... Furthermore, the invertebrate fauna in the hotspot is highly diverse, with many charismatic, rare and localized species (Steenkamp et al. 2004). This study was conducted on the commercial plantation estates Good Hope (29.67095 S, 29.9639E) and Mount Shannon (29.68661 S, 29.97861E) (Fig. 1), in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands of South Africa, which has a temperate climate (Mucina and Rutherford 2006). The estates are approximately 1 km apart, and are combined 6009 ha in size. ...
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Understanding how biodiversity responds to fine-scale heterogeneity improves our ability to predict larger-scale diversity patterns and informs local-scale conservation practices. This information is important in the design of conservation set-asides in commercial forestry landscapes in the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot, in South Africa. We assessed how soil arthropod assemblages vary among biotopes with varying degrees of contrast in forestry landscape mosaics in this hotspot. The biotopes included dry and hydromorphic grasslands, indigenous forests and pine plantations. Assemblages were highly segregated among all biotopes for overall arthropods, and for all the feeding guilds, namely predators, herbivores, detritivores, and omnivores. There was a high degree of assemblage dissimilarity between structurally contrasting biotopes (grasslands vs. wooded biotopes) and biotopes that differ in their degree of transformation (natural biotopes vs. plantations). Yet, there was an equally high level of assemblage dissimilarity between dry and hydromorphic grasslands, which are similar in structure and undergo the same disturbance regimes, which emphasises the responsiveness of soil fauna to fine-scale habitat heterogeneity. Different biotopes favoured different feeding guilds and each biotope had species strongly associated with it, highlighting the complementarity of the biotopes. All natural biotopes had relatively high species richness, diversity, and species turnover. The diversity and turnover in pine plantations was as high as in the natural areas, suggesting that plantation conditions may favour certain soil arthropods.
South Africa receives less than half of the annual global average precipitation, resulting in range-, crop-, and forestlands being very prone to degradation. This dry climate and a very old and stable landscape formed unique combinations of soil and vegetation. The major land use is therefore extensive grazing (83%), with only 14% arable land, and 1% forestry. About 2% of this land is severely affected by wind erosion, whilst water erosion varies from <1 to 60 Mg ha−1 year−1. Natural acidification occurs on 16 × 106 ha, with anthropogenic acidification on 12.9 × 106 ha cultivated land. About 1.4 × 106 ha irrigated land is saline, whilst sodicity is not widespread. Water pollution occurs in some rivers in South Africa, but agriculture is only responsible for 20% of this nitrogen and 53% of the phosphorus, with the remainder from human effluent and industry. Only 4% of soils contain >4% organic carbon, whilst 58% contain <0.5% organic carbon. Soil degradation is of greatest concern in the KwaZulu-Natal, Northern, and Eastern Cape Provinces, whilst vegetation degradation is of greatest concern in the Northern, KwaZulu-Natal, and Northern Cape Provinces. Land tenure, inappropriate land use, and management practices within the unique ecosystems emerged as primary drivers of agricultural land degradation. This degradation seems to be restricted to certain geographical areas. Focused management practices for either prevention or improvement can therefore be developed.KeywordsCroplandForestlandRangelandSoilVegetation
This is a synthesis of the South African Savanna Biome Project's 16 years of research at Nylsvley, Transvaal, drawing together the findings of diverse projects into an integrated view of the structure and function of this ecosystem. There are sections on: the Nylsvley site in an African savanna context, opening with an overview of African savannas, and followed by descriptions of the people, climate, geology, landforms and soils, and the biota; the key ecological determinants of water (with particular reference to soil hydrological characteristics), nutrients cycling, fire, and herbivory by both large mammals and insects; the carbon cycle, divided into the energy balance, primary production and decomposition; community and landscape pattern change, distinguishing between rich savanna and poor savanna, and focusing on tree-grass interactions and plant-herbivore interactions; and finally a summary of savanna ecology, including information on managing savannas. -J.W.Cooper