Vegetation studies in the Humansdorp region of the Fynbos Biome

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis comprises five papers dealing with syntaxonomy, history, species diversity and growth form distribution in Cape shrublands and non-Cape vegetation types (subtropical thicket, Afromontane forest) in the Humansdorp region of the Fynbos Biome. The first paper is a re-evaluation of vegetation concepts in the study area and, more generally, in the Fynbos Biome and adjacent biomes. Syntaxa are characterized in terms of floristics (including biogeographical affinities and patterns of endemism), structure and dynamics. In the second paper both descriptive and historical approaches are used to generate hypotheses to explain vegetation history during the last glacial to Holocene sequence. The third paper investigates, and seeks explanations for, diversity relations in the vegetation types of the study area. Both historical and ecological factors are used to predict patterns of species diversity. In the fourth paper patterns in the relative importance of structural attributes and growth forms along fynbos and non-fynbos coenoclines are studied. An appendix paper focusses on the distribution of C₃ and C₄ grasses in the Cape shrublands of the study area. It was concluded that descriptive studies such as this have much value in clarifying vegetation concepts and generating hypotheses to explain variations in community structure. However, as management and conservation are the major aims of the Fynbos Biome Project, future studies should concentrate on the reproductive biology and regeneration niches of plants in the fire-prone Cape shrublands. From the results of such studies a predictive knowledge of Cape shrubland dynamics will emerge - the key to judicious management.

Bibliography: leaves 111-127.