General paper

The History of the Clanwilliam Cedar (Widdringtonia cederbergensis): Evidence from Pollen Analysis

Published in: South African Forestry Journal
Volume 153, issue 1, 1990 , pages: 64–71
DOI: 10.1080/00382167.1990.9629034
Author(s): J.M. SugdenDepartment of Environmental and Geographical Science, South Africa, M.E. MeadowsDepartment of Environmental and Geographical Science, South Africa


It has been argued that the current “endangered” status of the endemic Clanwilliam cedar is a consequence of exploitation of the tree and changes in the fire regime which took place within the last two hundred years or so. In this paper, the results of a detailed palaeoecological analysis of two cores of organic sediment from vleis in the Cederberg are used to extend the documented history back to 14500 years ago. The demise of Widdringtonia cedarbergensis must be seen against a backdrop of late Quaternary environmental changes. It is argued that natural environmental changes, coupled with anthropogenic influences of both Khoisan and Khoikhoi, have also had significant effects on the distribution of the cedar. The Cederberg was not clothed in a closed-canopy cedar forest during the late Pleistocene and Holocene, although the tree appears to have been more widespread prior to 4000 years ago. The management implications of these findings are briefly introduced.

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