Environmental Management

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 635–648 | Cite as

Recovery in Naturally Dynamic Environments: A Case Study from the Sperrgebiet, Southern African Arid Succulent Karoo

  • Antje BurkeEmail author


Little is known about the process of vegetation recovery and associated time frames in the Succulent Karoo Biome of southern Africa. This study investigated the recovery of vegetation on sites impacted by mining (different types of dumps and mined areas) in the arid succulent karoo. The main aim of this study was to determine the state of recovery, time frames, successional stages, and the influence of environmental factors on recovery of coastal dune and sand plain plant communities. For this purpose, vegetation was recorded on some 121 sites throughout a coastal strip of approximately 100 × 3 km in Namibia’s restricted diamond area (Sperrgebiet). Using the species pool concept to derive vegetation reference sites and dominance-diversity curves, recovery of vegetation (measured in terms of species richness and cover) in these altered landscapes reached about 46% on the oldest, 51-year-old mine dumps. However, based on species richness, richness levels similar to the undisturbed reference sites were recorded after 30 years, following a logarithmic trend. Successional stages of natural recovery were indicated in this dynamic coastal environment and Cladoraphis cyperoides and Galenia fruticosa appear to be early successional species. Scaling up of studies to landscape level and developing a target community using the species pool concept are discussed as means to measure recovery in dynamic biological communities. On these altered, man-made landforms, the availability of seed may be the bottleneck to achieve vegetation cover comparable to undisturbed vegetation in the surrounding. Hence, restoration efforts should focus on this aspect.


Dominance-diversity curves Mining Plant succession Restoration Southern Namib 



Namdeb Diamond Corporation (PTY) Ltd. provided financial and logistic support to this study and supported the publication of these findings. J.D. van der Merwe and Marais Loubser shared their knowledge on mining history and Ronel van der Merwe undertook some of the preparatory work for this study. Comments from Bob Burrell, Fiona Olivier, and two anonymous reviewers helped to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EnviroScienceOranjemund

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