Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 921–938

Road Verge and Rangeland Plant Communities in the Southern Karoo: Exploring What Influences Diversity, Dominance and Cover



Road verges in the Prince Albert district, South Africa were examined to determine whether they are important refugia for plant species in the Karoo biome. Vascular plants at 50 sites on road verges were compared with those plant communities in the adjacent grazed rangelands. Verges were found to support a greater mean number of species, total plant cover, and number of individual plants. Road verges were found to contain 11 unique species compared with 20 unique species in rangelands. Plant community composition varied with more forbs and succulents on the verge and more shrubs in the rangeland. Significantly greater cover of unpalatable plants was found on the ungrazed road verge, and no difference in palatable and highly palatable plant cover was recorded, indicating that herbivory is not a major driver in defining community differences in these environments. No significant differences in soil moisture or texture were found between verge and rangeland. We argue that road maintenance and construction activities have an over-riding controlling influence on road verge community composition. Although it is not possible to discount the possibility that road verges provide an important refuge for certain species, it appears that they are disturbed environments that do not contribute significantly to the plant conservation needs of this biome.


Herbivory Karoo Plant community Rangeland Road maintenance Road verges Road verge width Soil moisture South Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African OrnithologyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.The Lesley Hill Institute for Plant Conservation, Botany DepartmentUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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