Biogeochemical niche construction in the forest-fynbos mosaic of Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, South Africa

Bachelor Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The south-western Cape of South Africa is dominated by fynbos vegetation with patches of forest restricted to rock screes and stream banks owing to the more favourable moisture status of these microhabitats. A detailed analysis of soil underlying forest and fynbos vegetation in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve was investigated. A total of nine soil pits were dug in forest and on fynbos slopes with high and low gradients. Pits were analysed by depth examining texture while soil was also sent for x-ray fluorescent analysis and carbon and nitrogen analysis. Evidence for dust deposition varied spatially, although this could be a result of the rapid erosion experienced during winter. Soil properties, mainly texture and nutrient concentration differed distinctly between forest and fynbos. I argue that these differences are caused by topographical diversity and maintained by vegetation which influences nutrient enrichment via dust accumulation and plant litter decomposition. Thus I concluded that soil texture favours nutrient retention in forest soil more than in fynbos soil enhancing the disparity between nutrients in the respective environments. By influencing litter decomposition and aeolian inputs of dust, vegetation is responsible for modifying its niche increasing the difference between fynbos and forest patches.

Includes bibliographical references.