Spatial changes in forest cover on the KwaNibela Peninsula, St Lucia, South Africa, during the period 1937 to 2008
AbstractThe KwaNibela Peninsula is situated in the northernmost region of Lake St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal. It is covered by forest patches of either Sand Forest or Coastal Forest within the Maputaland Coastal Vegetation. The area and the forests are heavily used by inhabitants of the region. The current and historical distributions of the forest patches were mapped to determine the changes in their cover (area) and character since 1937. A series of seven aerial photos, dating from 1937, 1960, 1969, 1979, 1990, 2002, to 2008 were used to quantify changes in land-cover type. The land-cover types were classified into core forest, regrowth forest and open areas (open woodland and anthropogenically altered land) and the percentages of each cover type were compared across years to determine the overall vegetation change, as well as the direction of change. Characteristic species were recorded at different stages of forest succession throughout the study area and are presented as supplementary information. The ratios of these land-cover types are shown to shift in both directions, with core forest ultimately expanding and open areas contracting slightly between 1937 and 2001. The nature of the land-cover types has changed significantly, with increasing fragmentation of both the core forest and open areas. This information has important implications for understanding forest dynamics in a changing environment, with shifting disturbance-recovery processes.
Keywords: Aerial photography; disturbance; KwaNibela; Landscape Shape Index; Sand Forest
Southern Forests 2010, 72(1): 47–55