oa Koedoe : African Protected Area Conservation and Science - A classification and description of the shrubland vegetation on Platberg, Eastern Free State, South Africa : original research
The natural environment is constantly under threat from human-related activities. Platberg, overlooking the town of Harrismith in the Free State, is an inselberg that presents a refuge for indigenous plants and animals. The natural vegetation of the area is threatened by various farming and grazing practices, as well as by commercial development. In order to obtain baseline data and to obtain an improved understanding of the long-term ecological processes, the vegetation of Platberg was investigated to establish Afro-alpine floristic links to the Drakensberg, as well as for the management of natural resources. From a Two-Way Indicator-Species Analysis (TWINSPAN) classification, refined by Braun-Blanquet methods, four major plant communities were identified, which were subdivided into fynbos, wetland, woody/shrub and grassland. A classification and description of the shrubland is presented in this article.
The analysis showed the shrubland divided into 20 different plant communities, which are grouped into eight major communities, 13 sub-communities and eight variants. A total of 450 species was recorded from 109 relevés. A total of 24 endemic, or near-endemic, and Red Data species belonging to the Drakensberg Alpine Centre (DAC) was collected, with 22 alien (introduced) species also being recorded. Numerous floristic links with the DAC, the Cape Floristic Region and the Grassland Bioregions to the north and west were found.
Conservation implications : The floristic composition and community analysis proves Platberg to be an important centre for plant diversity, with high species richness, a variety of habitats, and complex ecosystems. This description of the woodland communities can be used to assist with the setting of criteria for the management and protection of inselbergs in the province.
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