Original Articles

Patchiness in semi‐arid dwarf shrublands: Evidence from satellite‐derived indices for elevated CO2 assimilation rates on a geochemical mound in the Karoo National Park, South Africa

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 14, issue 3, 1997 , pages: 75–80
DOI: 10.1080/10220119.1997.9647925
Author(s): A.R. Palmer, South Africa, F. van der Heyden, South Africa
Keywords: NDVI, nutrients


Satellite‐derived vegetation indices were used to identify a geochemical mound of higher active greenness in the Karoo National Park, Beaufort West, South Africa. We determined whether this mound was occupied by plants with higher CO2 assimilation rate. Plant cover on and off the mound was determined. Three woody species with high cover were selected for further investigation. Two deep‐rooted species, Rhigozum obovatum Burch. and Eriocephalus ericoides (L.f.) Druce, showed greater net CO2 assimilation rates on the mound. Net CO2 assimilation rates for the third species, Pentzia incana (Thunb.) Kuntze were similar both on and off the mound. In an attempt to find a mechanistic basis for the elevated CO2 assimilation rates, the relationships between soil factors, foliar nutrients and CO2 assimilation capacity were also examined. Our results suggest that the elevated net CO2 assimilation was not mediated via improved soil or plant water relations on the actively greening mound, nor through a difference in nitrogen levels in the soil or plant material, but possibly by way of the higher sub‐soil phosphorus levels measured from the geochemical mound. Genotype and cover cannot alone be used for rangeland condition assessment since localized elevated soil nutrient status (patchiness) contributes to greater photosynthetic carbon gain which may confer superior browsing responses to plants occurring on these mounds.

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