Original Research

Vegetation geographical patterns as a key to the past, with emphasis on the dry vegetation types of South Africa

M. J. A. Werger
Bothalia | Vol 14, No 3/4 | a1185 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v14i3/4.1185 | © 1983 M. J. A. Werger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 October 1983 | Published: 06 November 1983

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M. J. A. Werger, Botanische Oecologie, Netherlands

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Abstract

Southern Africa is characterized by a highly diversified vegetational cover with extremes as contrasting as desert, tropical forest, alpine grassland, or mediterranean type scrub, and many other types in between. This vegetational pattern is strongly correlated to the climatological pattern. It is therefore likely that past changes in climate can still be partly traced in the vegetational pattern, particularly in geographical anomalies, and that study of these patterns provides complementary evidence to palynological research. The following anomalies in the vegetational pattern are briefly discussed:

1. island-wise occurrence of Afro-montane vegetation on mesic, sheltered sites in the southern Sudano- Zambezian Region, in particular in the Highveld grassland/False Karoo transition area;

2. similar westward occurrence of Sudano-Zambezian scrub patches in the Karoo-Namib Region near the Orange/Vaal confluence;

3. scattered occurrence of Sudano-Zambezian woody species in a matrix of Karoo-Namib vegetation in the marginal Karoo-Namib Region;

4. island-wise occurrence of frost-tolerant, dry, karroid dwarf shrub vegetation of predominantly C,-plants on isolated peaks in the winter rainfall area of Namaqualand;

5. peculiar patchy distribution of some succulents in wide areas of climatically rather homogeneous, succulent dwarf shrub vegetation of predominantly CAM-plants in the escarpment area of Namaqualand. a pattern reminiscent of that in many Cape fynbos species.

Interpretation of these patterns logically leads to the conclusion that these result from a previously wetter, a previously cooler, or a previously wetter and cooler climate, respectively, over the parts of southern Africa under discussion. This conclusion is compared with published palynological views.


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