On-line version ISSN 2071-0771
BRAND, Robert F.; COLLINS, Nacelle and DU PREEZ, P. Johann. A phytosociology survey and vegetation description of inselbergs in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site, South Africa. Koedoe [online]. 2015, vol.57, n.1, pp. 1-12. ISSN 2071-0771. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v57i1.1233.
No previous scientific surveys have been conducted on inselbergs in the Drakensberg. The aim of this study was to collect specimens, identify, describe and name the vegetation clusters and assess biogeographical connections with other Afromontane regions. A total of 103 relevés where sampled from six inselbergs. The plant sampling was carried out according to the Braun-Blanquet method with the plant and environmental data entered in TURBOVEG and exported as a Cornell Condensed format file (CC!) into Juice. Classification was completed using TWINSPAN (Two-way Indicator Species Analysis) (modified), resulting in 4 major communities, 11 communities, 13 sub-communities and 18 variants. Ordination (indirect) was carried out using CANOCO (version 4.5) to investigate the relationship between species. The four major communities identified are Rhodohypoxis rubella (wetland grass and forblands), Scirpus ficinioides - Crassula peploides (sheet rock grass and forblands), Pentaschistis exserta (high-altitude alpine grassland), previously undescribed, and Merxmuellera drakensbergensis - Helichrysum trilineatum (high-altitude alpine fynbos grassland), described in other vegetation and floristic studies. Four habitats were identified, namely wetlands, sheet rock shallow soil, high-altitude alpine grassland and deep soil high-altitude fynbos grasslands. Substrate and moisture availability appeared to be the defining micro-climatic conditions determining the different vegetation clusters whilst altitude is the overriding environmental factor influencing all vegetation. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Rising temperatures as a result of carbon dioxide increase is predicted to drastically decrease the number of endemic and near-endemic montane species, whilst altering the composition of vegetation units which comprise the alpine vegetation.