Floristic and dynamics of Sand Forest, a subtropical dry forest type in South Africa

Doctoral Thesis

2002

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University of Cape Town

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Unlike most dry forests, Sand Forest has been largely untransformed by human activity until very recently, and provides a rare opportunity to investigate the dynamics of old-growth dry forests. Twinspan classification and DCA ordination (Detrended Correspondence Analysis, an indirect gradient analysis) of a wide range of forest samples in north-eastern KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, indicated that Tropical Dry Forest species composition differs substantially from all other forests, and further, that Sand Forest samples, which occur on inland dune sands of Pleistocene origin, form a cohesive group with a characteristic set of species, including Cleistanthus schlechteri, Hymenocardia ulmoides, Psydrax obovata, Cotron pseudapulchellus and Drypetes arguta. The very high dominance of two canopy species, C. schlechteri and Newtonia hildebrandtii, at the majority of sites, implies that ecological functioning is similar across the geographical range in north-eastern Kwazulu-Natal. However, turnover of subdominant species between two recognisable Sand Forest subtypes (Western and Eastern Sand Forest) emphasises the need to conserve the full range of extant forest. Further sampling for this thesis was generally replicated in at least two sites representing the range of Sand Forest structure and composition.
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