Phytogeographic study of the Kaokoveld centre of endemism

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An intriguing biogeographic area that lies in northwestern Namibia and southwest Angola is known for having numerous endemic taxa. It had, however remained vaguely defined because of the complex flora, the arid environment and confusing and inconsistent use of biogeographic terminology. This thesis redefined the area as a centre of endemism based on recurrent patterns of plant distributions by shared species. The end result is a well-defined entity with regard to, not only geographic boundaries and floristic elements, but also to its history and floristic relationships. A vast amount of information on the plants of the area, their affinities and their distributions is required for a study of this nature and this was undertaken through literature surveys and field work. All the relevant information on Namibia and the southwestern Angolan flora, i.e. the region and the study area, were incorporated into a database which formed the bases for numerical analysis and GIS studies. The database also brought together a wide range of information from literature sources that included facts and theories about the past and present physical environment. The structure of the database permitted querying this electronic data in many different ways. To accommodate the wide variety of subjects in a logical way, the thesis was divided into two sections. Section A concentrated on the region and provided background information and context. The theory, terminology and phytogeographic studies in the region were evaluated as a first step. A large amount and variety of palaeo-environmental and palaeo-ecological information, pertinent to the region was incorporated. Secondly the flora was assessed. Besides the diversity, distribution patterns of the plants within and outside the region, including disjunct distributions, phylogenies were assessment. Finally taxa with similar geographic ranges were grouped. These entities were mapped and both the taxa and their environments were evaluated. Section B focused on the core area, namely the Kaokoveld Centre of Endemism, which was delimited by numerical techniques, and then investigated further with regard to its floristic components, relationships and origins. The flora and endemic components are described in detail. The result is a well-defined centre of endemism which comprises one endemic family, 10 endemic genera and nearly 300 endemic species. The flora of the Centre includes about 1600 species in nearly 550 genera in 130 families. Three floristic Groups, identified in section A, that have a remarkable number of endemics are found in the Centre. Historical explanations for the distribution patterns were suggested and the Group that includes Welwitschia mirabilis Hook.f., has been shown to be linked to the Arid Corridor.

Stellenbosch University, Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of Science
PhD Thesis
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