Habitat ecology of southern African quartz fields: studies on the thermal properties near the ground

Publication Year:

Desert pavements of white quartz stones (quartz fields) represent azonal habitats in several arid regions of southern Africa. The vegetation of these quartz fields is characterised by dwarf and highly succulent growth forms which contrast strongly with the shrubby vegetation of the surroundings. Incoming and reflected global solar radiation, air temperature near the ground, soil-surface temperatures and leaf-surface temperatures of dwarf plants were determined under natural habitat conditions inside and outside of the quartz fields. Surface temperatures of quartz and shale stones were compared. The study was conducted in the Kners­vlakte and the Little Karoo (Succulent-Karoo Biome), South Africa. The daily maximum temperatures of the air near the ground of quartz fields was several degrees lower than the air near the ground of neighbouring soils without quartz cover. Maximum soil-surface temperatures of the quartz fields, however, were only lower in summer. Accordingly, the leave surfaces of dwarf plants (Aizoaceae) growing inside quartz fields were up to 3 K cooler than identical plants outside the quartz fields. The lower maximum temperatures is associated with an about 5% higher reflection of quartz fields compared to neighbouring soils without quartz cover. At night, the minimum temperatures of the air near the ground and the soil surface temperatures on quartz fields were above those of soils without quartz cover. The nocturnal surface temperatures of quartz stones did not differ considerably from that of shale and often ranged above the temperatures and dew-point of the ambient air. Consequently, the relatively cooler quartz fields seem to provide less adverse growing conditions for plants near the ground compared to surrounding soils without quartz cover. Keywords: Desert pavement, Dwarf growth forms, Leaf-surface temperature, Soil-surface temperature, Succulent Karoo, Winter-rainfall desert.

Publication Title:

Plant Ecology

Item Type:
Journal Article

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