Title page for ETD etd-01252012-134656

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Grainger, Matthew James
URN etd-01252012-134656
Document Title An evaluation of coastal dune forest restoration in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Degree PhD
Department Zoology and Entomology
Advisor Name Title
Prof R J van Aarde Committee Chair
  • habitat rehabilitation
  • coastal dune forest
  • habitat restoration
  • succession
Date 2012-04-19
Availability unrestricted
Ecological restoration has the potential to stem the tide of habitat loss, fragmentation and transformation that are the main threats to global biological diversity and ecosystem services. Through this thesis, I aimed to evaluate the ecological consequences of a 33 year old rehabilitation programme for coastal dune forest conservation. The mining company Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) initiated what is now the longest running rehabilitation programme in South Africa in 1977. Management of the rehabilitation process is founded upon the principles of ecological succession after ameliorating the mine tailings to accelerate initial colonisation.

Many factors may detract from the predictability of the ecological succession. For example, if historical contingency is a reality, then the goal of restoring a particular habitat to its former state may be unattainable as a number of alternative stable states can result from the order by which species establish. Succession appears to be a suitable conceptual basis (at this stage in regeneration at least) for the restoration of coastal dune forest. Patterns of community characteristics observed in rehabilitating coastal dune forest sites were similar to those predicted by ecological succession, with few exceptions.

Changes in the species pool such as the establishment of strong dominants may lead to divergence of regenerating trajectories away from the desired endpoints. The species composition of herbaceous plants in regenerating coastal dune forest sites became increasingly uniform as the time since disturbance increased. Despite initially becoming more similar they II deviated away from an undisturbed reference site. Contrary to our expectations, non-native species did not contribute the most to dissimilarity. The deviation from the reference forest is attributable to the higher abundance of a native forest specialist in the reference site and the higher abundances of native woodland adapted species in the rehabilitating sites.

Changes in the disturbance regime under which species have evolved may lead to arrested succession. The rehabilitation of coastal dune forest relies on the Acacia karroo successional pathway which, has been criticised because Acacia dominated woodlands may stagnate succession. The patterns of species composition within regenerating coastal dune forest are a response to the canopy characteristics and represent an early stage in forest succession. Succession did not appear to be stagnant.

Ecological succession does not pay much heed to the role that the surrounding landscape composition can play in the assembly of communities. The theory of Island biogeography provides predictions about how landscape composition influences community assembly. Landscape spatial parameters, measuring edge, isolation, and area explained the patch occupancy of the several bird and tree species, however, responses to patch characteristics were varied and idiosyncratic. For restoration to succeed, managers need to consider the spatial configuration of the landscape to facilitate colonization of rehabilitating patches.

From this thesis and previous work, it appears that processes are in place that will lead to the reassembly of dune forest communities. As the rehabilitating sites are at an early stage of regeneration this may take some time to give rise to these coastal dune forest communities, and the management of rehabilitating coastal dune forest must allow for this. In addition, it is III important to remember that time may be interacting with the landscapes spatial attributes, which may limit the presence of certain species.

2011 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Grainger, MJ 2011, An evaluation of coastal dune forest restoration in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-01252012-134656/ >


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