oa Koedoe : African Protected Area Conservation and Science - Plant communities of the Soutpansberg Arid Northern Bushveld : original research



The Soutpansberg Arid Northern Bushveld is one of eight major vegetation types (MVT) described for the Soutpansberg-Blouberg region. The plant communities of this MVT are described in detail. Main ecological drivers of the vegetation structure and species composition of these communities are discussed and some conservation recommendations are made. Phytosociological data from a subset of 72 Braun-Blanquet sample plots collected in the Soutpansberg Arid Northern Bushveld were classified using Two-way Indicator Species Analysis (TWINSPAN) and ordinated using a Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DECORANA). The resulting classification was further refined with table-sorting procedures based on the Braun-Blanquet floristic-sociological approach to vegetation classification using the computer software MEGATAB and JUICE. Eight plant communities were identified and described as short open woodland, short bushland, short bushland, short bushland, subsp. low thickets, short closed grassland on steep basaltic slopes, sandveld wetlands, and tall sparse shrubland. These plant communities are event-driven ecosystems, predominantly influenced by frequent droughts, exposure to desiccation and unpredictable rainfall events. The complex topography of the Soutpansberg further contributes to the aridity of these ecosystems. The classification and ordination analyses show similar groupings in the vegetation of the Soutpansberg Arid Mountain Bushveld. This confirms the usefulness of complimentary analysis, using both classification and ordination methods on a single data set in order to examine patterns and to search for group structure.

The results from this study will alter existing regional vegetation maps profoundly. The described plant communities of these arid event-driven ecosystems should be used as benchmark examples of the region's primary vegetation. Conservation and management planning should be based on these vegetation units.


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