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University of Stellenbosch (2004)

Spatial patterning and demography in Strandveld succulent Karoo : implications for biodiversity management

Cheney, Chad

Titre : Spatial patterning and demography in Strandveld succulent Karoo : implications for biodiversity management

Auteur : Cheney, Chad (Chad Crispian)

Université de soutenance : University of Stellenbosch

Grade : Master of Science (MSc) 2004

Résumé
This thesis focuses on the effects of vegetation resting on biodiversity and community dynamics at Rocherpan Nature Reserve (320 36’S, 180 18’E) in the semi-arid coastal strip of the Succulent Karoo known as Strandveld. As a whole, the Succulent Karoo has an extraordinary high level of phyto diversity with high levels of endemism. This is particularly true for succulent shrubs belonging to the groups Mesembryanthemaceae, Crassulaceae and Asteraceae. The thesis begins with an investigation into effects that vegetation resting has on plant diversity. The aim was to determine if resting affected biodiversity levels and if so, which plant groups are affected and why. Through a numerical approach, it was determined that with resting overall species richness remained the same. However, different plant life forms responded to resting differently. With increased resting, abundance of succulent shrubs decreased, while richness of annuals increased. The second aspect under investigation was to determine how resting the vegetation affected community dynamics. The aim was to understand how vegetation structure and interspecific associations changed with resting and to apply these findings to known community models. Through an autocorrelation approach, it was found that horizontal patterning of long-lived woody species, that formed distinctive vegetation clumps, did not change with resting, while differences were found in woody matrix species and succulent species. These changes in structure were investigated further through a study on the demography of specific species. Demography of woody species associated with vegetation clumps did not change with vegetation resting, while significant changes were observed for woody matrix species and succulent species. In longer rested vegetation, woody matrix species showed a greater range in size class distribution (i.e. had both very large and smaller plants) with the tendency towards larger plant sizes. Succulents on the other hand, had a smaller range in size class distribution with a tendency towards larger plants. For all species investigated there were low seedlings counts. It was concluded that succulent shrub populations were ’mature’ and continued resting could result in local extinction of some species due to the lack of regeneration. The overall lack of seedlings was

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