The National Vegetation Map
What we do
This unit is engaged in mapping South Africa's vegetation.
South Africa's immensely rich flora is also reflected in a wide range of vegetation types. These vegetation types have been identified and mapped, with 440 types described (for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, and the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands) in the Vegetation map on the BGIS website, and in a book and wall map which are available from the SANBI bookshop and Kirstenbosch bookshop.
The media release describes the mapping project which was the result of more than ten years of collaborative effort by various organisations and experts in mapping and describing vegetation for the region.
The National Vegetation Map Committee
It is fully recognised that the map is not carved in stone and that improvements are needed as well as corrections where necessary. To this end SANBI convenes a committee to receive and assess comments and suggested improvements. Additional descriptive, mapping or photographic materials relating to the vegetation units of the national vegetation map are also received.
See below how you can contribute to this project.
The National Vegetation Database
This is made up of species-plot data collected by various vegetation scientists since as early as 1948, but mostly concentrated over the period 1970 to 2000. Sampling peaked in the 1980s with some 4 300 of the more than 47 000 plots being sampled in 1987 alone. There are over one million records of species in plots.
The aim is to include all species-plot data that are available in South Africa. Standards are being established by the NVMC, and ideally data would include at least:
- Georeferencing in decimal degrees DD.DDDDD, or with coordinates specified (e.g. DDMMSS)
- Relative abundance of all plant species recorded in the plot
- Plot size specified for each plot
- Full citation of publication, report, thesis etc.
- Description of the habitat etc. of the plot
- Date of survey
Where we work
The Vegetation map is a collaborative effort that covers the whole of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. The main implementation work is undertaken at the Kirstenbosch Research Centre.
Reason for our project
The National Vegetation map and National Vegetation Database are fundamentally important for environmental planning, conservation management and research in the floristically unique region in southern Africa.
What we have achieved
See links to the vegetation types on the BGIS database. Details of publications are given below.
- Mucina, L. & Rutherford, M.C. (eds) 2010. (CD Set). The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Mucina, L. & Rutherford, M.C. (eds) Reprint 2011. The Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. ISBN: 978-1919976-21-1
- Mucina, L., Rutherford, M.C. & Powrie, L.W. (eds) 2007. Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, edn 2, 1:1 000 000 scale sheet maps. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. ISBN 978-1-919976-42-6.
They are available at the SANBI bookshop and Kirstenbosch bookshop. The book (that includes a CD containing the electronic map and GIS shapefiles) has been reprinted and is on its way to our bookshops, and can also be purchased as a CD set containing one disc with the full text of the book in electronic format and another disc with the electronic map GIS shapefiles (as contained in the book). Copies of the wall map are available in the booksop.
The descriptions of vegetation types are given for each Biome and include a general introduction to each biome, details about how each vegetation type relates to previously published vegetation maps, distribution, vegetation & landscape features, geology & soils, climate, important taxa, biogeographically important taxa, endemic taxa, conservation, and remarks. The book also includes discussion of vegetation mapping, Biomes and Bioregions and methods used in the study. The book ends with discussion about ecosystem status, protection, vulnerability of vegetation, printed 1:1 000 000 scale map pages and a glossary.
The species lists and reference lists are available for download enabling the user to do things such as search, sort, and summarise the lists as contained in the book. it is important to note that the species lists are not perfect, and feedback will be welcomed to refine them.
The updated electronic form of the map will be available to registered users via the BGIS website.
Some GIS tools are available that were developed in the course of preparing the Vegetation map, and are very useful for continued georeferencing of herbarium and museum specimens, and giving feedback to improve the quality of the vegetation map, and other data in SANBI.
Who we are
The vegetation map is the result of a collaborative effort by various organisations and experts.
The National Vegetation Map Committee
The National Vegetation Map Committee: Mr Leslie W. Powrie is currently the principal SANBI staff member responsible for convening the committee and implementing approved updates to the national vegetation map. The committee currently includes a range of vegetation experts from various organisations around the country, currently Dr Mike Rutherford (SANBI Fellow), Dr Tony Rebelo (SANBI), Dr Hugo Bezuidenhout (Sanparks), Mr Mervyn Lotter (Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency), Prof Ladislav Mucina (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia), Dr Erwin Sieben (University of the Free State), Dr Philip Desmet (independent environmental research), Prof George Bredenkamp and Dr Coert Geldenhuys (private consultants).
The purpose of the NVMC is to manage the process of peer-review of proposed changes to the National Vegetation Map and/or accompanying descriptions following listed protocols and procedures and to approve proposed changes to the map and/or vegetation unit descriptions.
The National Vegetation Database
Mr Leslie W. Powrie is currently the principal staff member responsible for the National Vegetation Database. The NVD is listed on the Global Index of Vegetation Databases that shows that South Africa is ranked number nine in the world in terms of numbers of non-overlapping relevés, some 90% of which are in the NVD.
History of the Vegetation Map
Vegetation mapping in South Africa has developed through the efforts of many people, starting in 1918 with the establishment of the Botanical Survey of the Union of South Africa and work undertaken in the Botanical Research Institute (a predecessor of SANBI), followed by maps of various scales and levels of detail by Pole-Evans in 1936, Adamson in 1938, Acocks in 1953, Low & Rebelo in 1996, and work undertaken by universities and independent vegetation scientists. It was recognised that with improvements in knowledge and technology, and demands for detailed spatial information on natural resources, it was both necessary and possible to produce a spatially detailed vegetation map and descriptions. The present map was formally initiated at a workshop held at Kirstenbosch, Cape Town, in early August 1995 and work commenced by experts in various regions of South Africa.
How to contact us
Address: Kirstenbosch Research Centre, P/Bag X7, Claremont 7735, RSA
Tel: 021 799-8703
How you can contribute
There is an approved mechanism in place enabling users of the map and interested contributors to submit to the committee their proposals for changes to the vegetation map. An application form is available from SANBI for submitting changes. Please contact the Vegmap tream at SANBI - see our contact details above.
We are continually appealing for constructive feedback regarding the vegetation map, and for standardized relevé data for the vegetation database. We also encourage the development of a new generation of vegetation scientists who will carry forward the work of mapping the vegetation of our country, and surveying the vegetation to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the vegetation of South Africa.