Biome Information

The study area is situated in the Fynbos Biome according to Rutherford & Westfall (1986). The biome covers an area of about 70 000 square kilometres or 5,72% of the country. The vegetation is an open to closed grassy, dwarf shrubby, shrub/woodland which generally does not exceed 3 meters in height. The biome is characterized by the dominance of usually evergreen, sclerophyllous phanerophytes, chameophytes and hemicryptophytes. (Rutherford & Westfall, 1986). The hemicrytophyte component only contains a small proportion of grasses and a high proportion of Restionaceae, which is considered diagnostic for the biome. The finer declaration of the area falls into the Boland granite fynbos, according to the South African vegetation map.

Larger trees and shrubs are rare in the biome but the floristic diversity (alpha, beta and gamma diversity) is very high with many plant taxa endemie. Seven families, about 200 genera and more than half of the approximately 8000 species are endemic, which renders the conservation of the biome of utmost importance. Unfortunately many of the species are also rare and agriculture, urban development, alien plant invasions and the injudicious use of fire threaten many. The vegetation in this biome is highly flammable due to the presence of flammable oils, finely divided canopies and a continuous structure (Rutherford & Westfall, 1986). Fire frequency ranges between 4 and 25 years.

Only 18% of the mammal fauna of southern Africa occur in the Fynbos biome and the area is generally not very productive of food for animals. Not only is the vegetation in this biome low in productivity but it also recovers slowly from defoliation. Fire is used extensively in the biome as a management tool to create a herbaceous community moderately useful for grazing (Tainton, 1999). The biome is also very susceptible to invasion by a wide variety of alien plants.

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