The dynamics of the Afromontane forest remnants in the Southwestern Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis identifies the major forest types present in the southwestern Cape and investigates the floristic and structural changes in vegetation composition across the indigenous forest ecotone. The dynamics of forest-fynbos boundaries of differing post-fire age are compared and patterns of vegetation change from forest to fynbos are related to environmental constraints and disturbance history. Riparian forest and Scree forest were identified, and differences in the structure a.nd composition of the two forest types and their ecotonal communities were evident at both the recently burnt site of Swartboskloof and the fire-protected catchment of Orange · Kloof. Soil moisture, soil depth and the amount of rock cover were. key factors influencing the dynamics of the forest-fynbos ecdtone, with fbrest composition and the consequent availability of seed also important. The analysis of post-fire regeneration strategies indicated that seedling production and coppice growth were best represented in the igirnediate post-fire condition, thus supporting the initial floristic composition (IFC) hypothesis. This implies that coppice production is an immediate, reactionary mode of regeneration following disturbance, and that most seedling establishment and subsequent growth of saplings occurs soon after the disturbance event. The absence of seedlings in scree fynbos areas at Orange Kloof suggests an episodic recruitment strategy which is influenced by local species composition and seed production.