Forests – Afrotemperate, Subtropical and Azonal Forests
Indigenous forest in South Africa is defined as ‘a generally multilayered vegetation unit dominated by trees (largely evergreen or semi-deciduous), whose combined strata have overlapping crowns (i.e. the crown cover is 75% or more), and where graminoids in the herbaceous stratum (if present) are generally rare’ (Bailey et al. 1999, Shackleton et al. 1999). Stand height ranges from high forest over 30 m to scrub forest with a height of just over 3 m. All indigenous forest of southern Africa is evergreen. Besides the obviously distinctive structure, the forests differ from the surrounding vegetation (fynbos, succulent thicket, grassland, savanna) by a specific set of flora (Mucina & Rutherford 2006).
Forests cover only 0.08% of the area and contain only 7.1% of the vascular species of South Africa, but have a relatively rich 0.58 species per km2. Only fynbos exceeds the forest value with 1.36 species per km2 (7 316 species).
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