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).

Forest patch along river
Forests are usually restricted to patches of fire-protected sites along rivers, deep valleys, ravines, etc.
Forest typical lowest stratum
Ferns are usually present in the lowest stratum of Afrotemperate Forests


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