oa African Zoology - Distribution patterns of terrestrial mammals in KwaZulu-Natal

Volume 31, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1562-7020
  • E-ISSN: 2224-073X



Distribution patterns, plotted by eighth-degree squares (7.5' x 7.5'), of the 162 mammal species recorded in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa were examined in relation to the combined factors of vegetation type, climate, and altitude (= bioregions); and in relation to protected areas within the nine bioregions. Highest species richness was recorded in the warmest most heterogeneous (vegetation) bioregions, and lowest in a cool montane region. Species richness was intermediate in relatively homogeneous, predominantly grassland bioregions. Mammalian biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal is concentrated in the savanna regions in the north-east of the province, although further species-rich areas are found in the north-west and south-west for carnivores, and in the central region for many of the smaller mammals (Insectivora, Chiroptera, Rodentia). Analysis of taxonomic resemblances between bioregions distinguished taxonomically distinct 'savanna' and 'grassland' groups. Taxonomic resemblances between bioregions were generally lowest in bats (i.e. greatest bioregion specificity) and highest in carnivores (i.e. lowest specificity). In total, 92% of the mammal species occur in one or more protected areas. The percentages of species within protected areas in each of the bioregions are generally high (68-100%). In four of the bioregions the amount of land occupied by protected areas is adequate (6-96%) and protected areas are large, but in the other five bioregions the opposite holds (> 2% protected) and populations within them may not be viable.

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