oa Koedoe : African Protected Area Conservation and Science - The Grassland vegetation of Platberg, eastern Free State, South Africa : original research
Platberg is an inselberg that presents a refuge for indigenous plants and animals. Uncontrolled human access to this area threatens this sensitive ecosystem. The vegetation of Platberg was investigated to obtain an inventory of the different plant species and communities present in this area. A hierarchical classification, a description and an ecological interpretation of the grassland communities of Platberg are presented. A total of 169 sample plots were placed on a stratified random basis within the study area. From a TWINSPAN classification a total of 27 different plant communities, which can be grouped into two major community types, nine communities, 18 sub-communities and six variants, were identified. A significant difference in species richness was found between the two major communities, with the higher-altitude communities having a higher species richness than the communities on the lower-lying slopes. A total of 26 endemic or near endemic Drakensberg Alpine Centre species were recorded.
Conservation implications: Anthropogenic influences are felt globally on ecosystems. Highaltitude habitats and organisms will be affected first. Inselbergs have high levels of endemic organisms and are reservoirs and refugia for unique genetic material. This grassland plant community survey of Platberg provides valuable information on inselberg ecology for conservation planning.
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