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South African Biomes and Their Changes Over Time

  • Jemma M. FinchEmail author
  • Michael E. Meadows
Chapter
Part of the World Regional Geography Book Series book series (WRGBS)

Abstract

A biome is the largest geographical unit used for biotic classification, based on plant and animal life in conjunction with climate. Here we introduce the biomes of South Africa, and illustrate their changes over time through the use of case studies. An historical context for this analysis is provided by summarising key national vegetation classification schemes, including the most recent classification of nine biomes. Each of these biomes is briefly introduced, describing their location, characteristics, climate, ecology and conservation importance. Longer-term vegetation changes linked to climate and human activity in the Succulent Karoo/Fynbos ecotone are explored using palaeoecological evidence. Recent bush encroachment in the grassy biomes is reviewed, drawing on results from a range of methodologies. Finally, we review future projections for the ecologically important Fynbos biome under anthropogenic climate change, based on bioclimatic modelling. These studies demonstrate the dynamic nature of South African biomes, and the range of natural and anthropogenic drivers which influence their composition and distributions.

Keywords

Biogeography Biomes Conservation Fynbos Karoo South Africa 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Figure 7.1 was professionally drafted by Brice Gijsbertsen (UKZN Cartography). We thank Timm Hoffman (UCT) for facilitating access to photographs from rePhotoSA, the repeat photography project of southern African landscapes. Thank you to James Puttick (UCT) for generously sharing the photograph in Fig. 7.3e. We thank Trevor Hill (UKZN) for insightful comments on the manuscript, and for providing photographs for Figs. 7.2 and 7.3.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KwaZulu-NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa
  2. 2.University of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.East China Normal UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

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