Original Research

A reclassification and description of the Waterberg Mountain vegetation of the Marakele National Park, Limpopo province, South Africa

Petrus J. van Staden, George J. Bredenkamp, Hugo Bezuidenhout, Leslie R. Brown
Koedoe | Vol 63, No 1 | a1689 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v63i1.1689 | © 2021 Petrus J. van Staden, George J. Bredenkamp, Hugo Bezuidenhout, Leslie R. Brown | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 June 2021 | Published: 10 December 2021

About the author(s)

Petrus J. van Staden, Department of Botany, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
George J. Bredenkamp, Department of Botany, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Hugo Bezuidenhout, Scientific Services, SANParks, Kimberley, South Africa; and, Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystem Research Unit, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa
Leslie R. Brown, Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystem Research Unit, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa


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Abstract

The description and classification of vegetation are important for conservation and resource management. The aim of this study was to identify, reclassify and describe the plant communities present in the Waterberg Mountain vegetation of the Marakele National Park in the Limpopo province, South Africa. A phytosociological classification, mapping and description of sections of the Waterberg Mountain vegetation in the park were done in 1995. Since 1995, various farms adjacent to the park have been bought and incorporated into it. Little is known about the vegetation and habitat status of these newly acquired areas, which led to this study. The floristic data were analysed according to the Braun-Blanquet procedure using the Braun Blanquet Personal Computer (BBPC) suite as well as the JUICE software package, whilst the diversity of the plant communities was determined using the Shannon–Wiener and Gini–Simpson indices. A total of 12 plant communities were identified and are described according to their diagnostic, constant and dominant plant species as determined from the synoptic table analysis as well as their characteristic species as derived from the phytosociological table. Based on the topography and plant species composition, the vegetation can be grouped into five major groups, namely the: (1) lower midslope and plateau shrub- and woodlands, (2) high altitude midslope woodland, (3) high-lying plateau and midslope grass-, shrub- and woodlands, (4) ravine, footslope and drainage line forests and woodland, and (5) higher-lying plateau wetlands and forblands. The high altitude midslope grassland and shrubland and the lower midslope and plateau areas have the highest diversity. The high-lying vegetation has affinity with Bankenveld and Drakensberg vegetation, whilst the relatively low-lying plateaus and midslope vegetation are typical of the bushveld areas.

Conservation implications: This reclassification, mapping and description of the Waterberg Mountain vegetation have been incorporated into the Management Plan for the park. It will enable managers to make scientifically based decisions on the management of the different ecosystems to ensure biodiversity conservation. This vegetation study also provides baseline information that allows for vegetation assessments to determine veld condition, carrying capacity and stocking density for the park.


Keywords

Marakele National Park; JUICE; phytosociology; diversity; vegetation structure; nature conservation

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