The Indigenous Forest Of South Africa Biology Essay


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-The indigenous forest of South Africa are defined as a generally multilayered vegetation area which is dominated by trees, largely evergreen and semi-deciduous (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). They are characterized by their height (High forest consist of trees above 30 meters high and scrub forests consist of trees with a height just over 3 meters) (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). They cover an area less than 0.5% of South African land which equates to about 5000 Km square(Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). They are found along the coastal areas and have a patchy distribution across South Africa depending on various factors. Forest are different to their surrounding vegetation by the larger flora experienced in the forest compared to the surrounding vegetation areas. There are many different types of forest depending on the area and climate it experiences. Forest is often a dense area of flora where all the species are fighting for space, sunlight and nutrients. This gives a forest that densely packed look and tall trees which are fighting to be taller than the surrounding plants to experience the maximum amount of sunlight available. Forest plays a huge role in the carbon - oxygen cycle through photosynthesis.

The geographical distribution of forest are determined by a number of factors from large scale climates patterns to small scale climatic patterns, from geology and soil to fire and the responses to fire. Forest may even invade other biomes (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Forest is limited to areas of high water availability, which is mostly derived from rainfall (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Groundwater, floodwater, and the shelter phenomenon contribute to the precipitation experienced in a forest (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). The shelter phenomenon is a deep kloof with low solar radiation, which causes a lower evaporation and evapo-transpiration (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). The annual rainfall for a forest to occur is greater than 525mm in the winter rainfall areas and greater than 725mm in the summer rainfall regions (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997).

The amount of rainfall and precipitation will determine the vegetation and the flora encountered in the forest. Mist in the great escarpment areas supplement rainfall (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Many of the boundaries between forest and surrounding areas are very abrupt; this is due to fire, which is important to determine the forest boundaries and the forest composition (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). The boundary between forest and fynbos in the Western Cape is determined by fire (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). Forest species will invade the adjacent fynbos biome if fire is excluded and the forest biome will take over that area (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). Forest has been broken up into sub type forest. Where 26 forest types are recognised as groups and these are then grouped into 8 zonal and 1 azonal (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). The groups are Northern and Southern Afrotemperate forest, Northern and Southern Mistbelt forest, Scarp forest, Northern and Southern Coastal forest, Sand forest, Ironwood Dry forest, Lowveld Riverine forest, Swamp forest and Mangrove forest (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). These were derived by their floristic composition, biogeographic relationship, climate, substrate and their water dynamics (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Many forest species are able to sprout, both in response to disturbances or through a normal process (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). Forest species obtain strong fire resistance in 5 years of it starting to grow; even sensitive species can withstand a certain degree of fire (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). Fire helps with the regeneration and reproduction, it reduces litter on the ground, and it can sometimes bare minerals in the soil, reduces competitive species and can even sanitise the area (Barnes, B.V., Zak, D.R., Denton, S.R., Spurr, S.H., 1998).

Forest is being cleared at an alarming rate and is under huge threats by humans and global warming. Approximately an area of forest the size of Kwa Zulu Natal is being lost every year around the world due to deforestation (Biology 102, 2010). Forest are being cleared for the space to place commercial agriculture, for commercial use, foods, crafts as well as for cities to expand (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Of the 568 trees and shrubs in the forest, 365 are being used for a wide range of activities (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Forest near rural areas are being cleared and harvested to use the trees and shrubs as poles, firewood, crafts, foods and traditional medicines (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Coastal forest and dunes are under huge pressure due to their fleshy fruit bearing species being cultivated for their fruit (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Deforestation starts to deteriorate the natural environment (White, R.1990). Deforestation can cause an increase in soil erosion, ruin the soils, Increases the possibility of floods and it could even affect the local climate (White, R.1990). Climate is occurring to quickly for forest to regenerate themselves. The temperature is either getting too hot or too cold for the ideal conditions for a forest (White, R.1990). Since 1939, forest were starting to be projected by the local government and sustainable forest management systems were introduced (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Commercial forestry plantations of pines, eucalyptus, acacias and other species are being opened on grasslands, which does not affect or destroy the natural evergreen forest (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). An overall action to conserve forests would be, a large scale public education on the importance of forests, careful land use, establishing nature reserves of natural forest, provide alternate fuels such a solar power and planting shelter belts and trees for the public to benefit in villages, towns and cities (White, R.1990). The Northern and Southern Afrotemperate forest and Northern and Southern Mistbelt forest and the least threatened of the forest (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Nature reserves of forest would include having camp sites and picnic areas to shoe the beauty and importance of forest. If we lost most the forest in the world the CO2- O2 cycle would slow down and more CO2 would be in the air thus warming the atmosphere (Six degrees could change the world DVD).

The diversity and species composition varies from each different sub forest type. The alpha diversity has seen to have a general decrease southwards as well as with the increase of altitude (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). Since most forest are not joined, they create an 'island forest' where the diversity may be similar to surrounding 'island' forest but it will not be the same by the processes of islandisation (Biology 102, 2010). If a natural disaster or disease occurred in one 'island' it could destroy that whole forest but would affect the surrounding forest. 1438 plant species have been recorded from 14 different forests, which include 155 families and 661 genera (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Forest are relatively rich with about 0,58 species per km square, with only the fynbos biome exceeding it with a value of 1,36 species per km square (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Southern Afrotemperate forest are found in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and have tall. Multilayered plant species such as Afrocarpus falcatus and Cunonia capensis (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006). Northern and Southern Mistbelt forest are found in Kwa Zulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the Mpumalanga provinces, they produce tall trees with dense shrubby understory (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006).

Forest have been utilized in the past for human use and not been taken in consideration of conserving or regenerating the used trees or shrubs. This has led to a decrease in forest sizes regionally and globally. Historically in Africa, forest use to cover an area of about 3.6 million km square or 12%, but now this has decreased to 5,8%( White, R.1990). The two main historical events that space and situated today's forest are due to fire and climate (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006 ). Fire shapes and controls the invasiveness of the forest (Mucina, L. And Rutherford, M.C. 2006 ).

Forest are very important for human survival for the use of shelter, food and even to slow climate change. There is still not enough research in detail on forest (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). If forest are continued to be utilized at the rate they are, there will be no forests at all soon. Conservation of all forest types and their species, be it flora and forna, must be conserved and protected for the future generations to enjoy and admire(Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997). There is not much data on the ecosystem level patterns and processes in Southern Africans forest, as well as there is an urgent need to investigate the roles forest play in maintaining the hydrological and pedological processes in water catchments and riverine habitats (Cowling, R., Richardson, D., and Pierce, S. 1997)

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