Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 1169–1179 | Cite as

Woody plant species richness, composition and structure in urban sacred sites, Grahamstown, South Africa

  • P. De Lacy
  • Charlie M. ShackletonEmail author


Sacred sites are important not only for their traditional, spiritual or religious significance, but may also potentially be valuable for biodiversity conservation in human transformed landscapes. Yet, there has been little consideration of sacred sites in urban areas in this respect. Consequently, to better understand the ecosystem service and conservation value of urban sacred sites, inventories of their floral communities are needed. We examined the richness, composition and structure of the trees and shrubs in 35 urban churchyards and cemeteries in the City of Saints (Grahamstown). The combined area of urban sacred sites (38.7 ha) represented 2.2% of the city area and 13.6% of the public green space area. Species richness of woody plants was high, albeit dominated by non-native species. Levels of similarity among sites were low, indicating the effects of individual management regimens. There was no relationship between age of the site and measured attributes of the vegetation, nor were there any significant differences in vegetation among different religious denominations. However, the basal area and number of woody plants was significantly related to site size. These results indicate the significant heterogeneity of urban sacred sites as green spaces within the urban matrix. The significance of this heterogeneity in providing ecosystem services to users of sacred sites and the broader urban communities requires further investigation.


Age Basal area Cemeteries Churchyards Religious site Size 



This work was sponsored by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Dept of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation of South Africa. Any opinion, finding, conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the author and the NRF does not accept any liability in this regard.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental ScienceRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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