Guidelines for phytosociological classifications and descriptions of vegetation in southern Africa

Leslie R. Brown, Pieter J. du Preez, Hugo Bezuidenhout, George J. Bredenkamp, Theo H.C. Mostert, Nacelle B. Collins
Koedoe | Vol 55, No 1 | a1103 | DOI: | © 2013 Leslie R. Brown, Pieter J. du Preez, Hugo Bezuidenhout, George J. Bredenkamp, Theo H.C. Mostert, Nacelle B. Collins | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 July 2012 | Published: 23 July 2013

About the author(s)

Leslie R. Brown, Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystem Research Unit, University of South Africa, South Africa
Pieter J. du Preez, Department of Plant Sciences, University of the Free State, South Africa
Hugo Bezuidenhout, Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystem Research Unit, University of South Africa; South African National Parks Scientific Services, Hadison Park, Kimberley, South Africa
George J. Bredenkamp, Department of Plant Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Theo H.C. Mostert, Department of Botany, University of Zululand, South Africa
Nacelle B. Collins, Free State Department of Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Changes in the environment are first observed in changes in the vegetation. Vegetation survey, classification and mapping form the basis on which informed and scientifically defendable decisions on the environment can be taken. The classification and mapping of vegetation is one of the most widely used tools for interpreting complex ecosystems. By identifying different plant communities we are essentially identifying different ecosystems at a particular hierarchical level. Phytosociologists in Europe have been involved in such studies following, in particular, the Braun-Blanquet approach since the early 1900s. In South Africa, such studies were undertaken on a limited basis from the early 1970s and have since then steadily increased. The surveying of the enormous diversity of South African vegetation is one of the objectives of phytosociological studies. The demand for such data has steadily increased over the past few years to guide conservation policies, biodiversity studies and ecosystem management. In South Africa, numerous publications on the vegetation of conservation and other areas in the different biomes have been produced over the last few decades. However, vegetation scientists in South Africa experience unique problems. The purpose of this article is therefore to provide an overview of the history and the specific focus of phytosociological studies in South Africa and to recommend minimum requirements and methods to be followed when conducting such studies. It is believed that the incorporation of these requirements will result in scientifically justifiable research of high quality by phytosociologists in South Africa.

Conservation implications: Effective conservation cannot be obtained without a thorough knowledge of the ecosystems present in an area. Consistent vegetation classifications and descriptions form the basis of conservation and monitoring exercises to maintain biodiversity. The incorporation of these guidelines and requirements will facilitate quality phytosociological research in South Africa.


Multivariate analysis; phytosociology; plant community nomenclature; survey methods; plant community nomenclature; vegetation classification


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Crossref Citations

1. Phytosociological Studies on Tree Species of Peddagattu and Sherepally Area, a Proposed Site for Uranium Mining Project, Nalgonda District, Telangana State, India
A. Baleeshwar Reddy, V. Hanumantha Rao, V. Vasudeva Rao, A. Vijaya Bhasker Reddy
International Letters of Natural Sciences  vol: 50  first page: 33  year: 2016  
doi: 10.56431/p-w0jo44