Soil chemical and physical properties and their influence on the plant species richness of arid South-West Africa
Thesis (MScConsEcol (Conservation Ecology and Entomology)--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
Understanding the drivers and mechanisms of changes in plant richness is a basis for making scientifically sound ecological predictions and land use decisions. Of the numerous factors affecting plant richness, soil has a particularly large influence on the composition and structure of terrestrial flora. Infiltrability is one of the most important factors determining soil moisture, and therefore is of particular interest in semi-arid ecosystems, where water is one of the most limiting resources. Other soil properties, such as clay + silt content, electrical conductivity (EC) and pH may also influence plants. Heterogeneity of these properties creates niches with specific conditions, which in turn affects spatial distribution of plants. An understanding of the relationships between plant richness and soil properties is, however, incomplete. The present study has two main foci. Firstly, relationships between plant richness and soil infiltrability, clay + silt, EC and pH (H2O) were investigated, and secondly, due to the strong influence of infiltrability on plant richness, further investigations were undertaken to improve the understanding of the role of particle size fractions, EC of the soil solution and exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) on infiltrability. This study only concentrated on the surface 2 cm thick soil layer (known as pedoderm).