Inselbergs persist as islands of diversity in a heavily grazed rangeland mosaic at the nexus of three arid biomes
Inselbergs are regarded as ‘islands of diversity’ due to the high number of plant species present and level of endemism. They also act as natural sources of fodder for livestock and thus risk becoming homogenised in a heavily grazed rangeland. The aim of this study was to compare plant diversity on inselbergs and matrices in
heavily grazed sections of three arid biomes of South Africa’s west. The inselbergs are scattered in a matrix of rangeland vegetation in the Desert, Nama-Karoo and Succulent Karoo biomes where pastoral herding is the main land use. Plant composition, cover and growth forms were quantified in plots and along transects in 21 inselberg and matrix sites. Inselbergs had more diverse plant and growth forms and greater cover than adjacent matrices. Defoliated plants on inselbergs are able to recover due to more mesic conditions and because inselbergs are largely grazed during drier periods, species are able to flower and set seed during winter. Inselbergs are also less accessible to livestock due to their unique geomorphology. Therefore, inselbergs are able to persist as islands of diversity and warrant inclusion into conservation and rangeland farming management plans since climate change will result in biome boundary shifts.
Keywords: arid biomes, communal rangelands, inselbergs