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Koedoe

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Abstract

SIEBERT, Frances; ECKHARDT, Holger C.  and  SIEBERT, Stefan J.. The vegetation and floristics of the Letaba exclosures, Kruger National Park, South Africa. Koedoe [online]. 2010, vol.52, n.1, pp. 1-12. ISSN 0075-6458.

The construction of exclosures along two of the most important rivers in the Kruger National Park was done to investigate how patterns of spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the riparian zone is affected by fire, flood and herbivory. To assist this research programme, vegetation surveys were conducted within exclosures along the Letaba River to classify and map the vegetation of the area. The history and experimental design of the Letaba exclosures are similar to that of the Nkhuhlu exclosures along the Sabie River, which is directly related to questions surrounding elephant management. The main difference between the Nkhuhlu and Letaba exclosures is local heterogeneity, since the latter lies within the Mopaneveld, which is floristically and physiognomically much more homogenous than the vegetation of the southern Kruger National Park. Nevertheless, four plant communities, eight sub-communities and six variants were recognised and mapped for the Letaba exclosures. The vegetation description was done in relation to prevailing soil forms, differences in species richness, diversity and community structure, and therefore should serve as a basis for further detailed and broad-based botanical studies. Vegetation mapping was done to sub-community level and, where possible, to variant level. As expected in Mopaneveld vegetation, the plant communities could broadly be related to soil types, although smaller-scale variations correspond to soil moisture availability because the Mopaneveld is considered 'event-driven', especially in the herbaceous layer. Conservation implications: Floristic surveying and vegetation mapping of a long-term monitoring site, such as the Letaba exclosures, is seen as a baseline inventory to assist natural resource management. Linking mapping units to biodiversity strengthens the understanding needed to maintain biodiversity in all its natural facets and fluxes.

Keywords : biodiversity; Letaba River; Mopaneveld; riparian vegetation; savanna; vegetation.

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