Original Research

Plant communities of the uMlalazi Nature Reserve and their contribution to conservation in KwaZulu-Natal

Nqobile S. Zungu, Theo H.C. Mostert, Rachel E. Mostert
Koedoe | Vol 60, No 1 | a1449 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v60i1.1449 | © 2018 Nqobile S. Zungu, Theo H.C. Mostert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 November 2016 | Published: 28 May 2018

About the author(s)

Nqobile S. Zungu, Department of Botany, University of Zululand, South Africa
Theo H.C. Mostert, Department of Botany, University of Zululand, South Africa
Rachel E. Mostert, Department of Biology, Felixton College, South Africa


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Abstract

Vegetation research is an important tool for the simplified and effective identification, management and conservation of the very complex ecosystems underlying them. Plant community descriptions offer scientists a summary and surrogate of all the biotic and abiotic factors shaping and driving ecosystems. The aim of this study was to identify, describe and map the plant communities within the uMlalazi Nature Reserve. A total of 149 vegetation plots were sampled using the Braun-Blanquet technique. Thirteen plant communities were identified using a combination of numeric classification (modified Two-way-Indicator Species Analysis) and ordination (non-metric multidimensional scaling). These communities were described in terms of their structure, floristic composition and distribution. An indirect gradient analysis of the ordination results was conducted to investigate the relationship between plant communities and their potentially important underlying environmental drivers. Based on the results, the floristic conservation importance of each plant community was discussed to provide some means to evaluate the relative contribution of the reserve to regional ecosystem conservation targets.

Conservation implications: The uMlalazi Nature Reserve represents numerous ecosystems that are disappearing from a rapidly transforming landscape outside of formally protected areas in Zululand. The descriptions of the plant communities of these relatively pristine ecosystems provide conservation authorities with inventories and benchmarks with which the ecological health of similar ecosystems in the region can be measured.

Keywords

Phytosociology; vegetation; Maputaland; Coastal dune forest; Indian Ocean Coastal Belt Biome; ecosystem conservation

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