Review Article

Factors influencing the adaptation and distribution of Colophospermum mopane in southern Africa’s mopane savannas – A review

Rudzani A. Makhado, Isaac Mapaure, Martin J. Potgieter, Wilmien J. Luus-Powell, Amani T. Saidi
Bothalia | Vol 44, No 1 | a152 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v44i1.152 | © 2014 Rudzani A. Makhado, Isaac Mapaure, Martin J. Potgieter, Wilmien J. Luus-Powell, Amani T. Saidi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 May 2014 | Published: 12 November 2014

About the author(s)

Rudzani A. Makhado, Department of Biodiversity, University of Limpopo, South Africa
Isaac Mapaure, Research and Publications Office, University of Namibia, Namibia
Martin J. Potgieter, Department of Biodiversity, University of Limpopo, South Africa
Wilmien J. Luus-Powell, Department of Biodiversity, University of Limpopo, South Africa
Amani T. Saidi, South African Environmental Observation Network, National Research Foundation, South Africa


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Abstract

Colophospermum mopane is the dominant tree or shrub within mopane woodland in the subtropical areas of southern Africa’s savanna ecosystems. This article provided a review on the adaptation capabilities of mopane against fire, browsing activity and environmental stresses. It further reviewed and tested the extent to which rainfall, temperature, altitude and soil types had an effect on the distribution of mopane in southern Africa. Mopane is adapted to survive moisture stresses, low nutrient environments and even disturbances caused by fire and browsing by large herbivores through its physical, physiological and chemical responses. Adaptation of mopane to various stresses enables it to dominate the low-lying areas of southern Africa’s savannas. The distribution of mopane is best associated with low to moderate rainfall (R2 = 0.38), high temperature (R2 = 0.42), low altitudes (R2 = 0.44) and a variety of soil types. An increase in the annual rainfall (> 800 mm) and altitude (> 800 m.a.s.l.), coupled with a reduction in the minimum temperature and acidic soil, limits the distribution of mopane. Mopane in South Africa occurs under similar environmental conditions to those in Zimbabwe and Zambia, but quite different from those in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana where mopane occurs.

Keywords

Colophospermum mopane; distribution; climate; edaphic; adaptation; southern Africa

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