Landscapes, rock types, and climate of the Greater Cape Floristic Region

Peter L. Bradshaw and Richard M. Cowling

in Fynbos

Published in print September 2014 | ISBN: 9780199679584
Published online October 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191791949 | DOI:
Landscapes, rock types, and climate of the Greater Cape Floristic Region

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This chapter outlines the abiotic characteristics of the GCFR, principally its landscapes, rock types, and gradients of climate. These act together to produce a mosaic of environmental conditions which facilitate the differentiation of the GCFR into smaller physiographic units. The GCFR’s latitudinal position (28°S to 35°S) together with its largely coastal position in the westerly wind belt ensures that it receives reliable winter rain and has relatively mild temperatures; however only the south west qualifies as a mediterranean-type climate. Northwards, temperature increases and rainfall decreases, while from west to east rainfall dominance changes from winter to summer. The alpine-like topography of the Cape Fold Belt produces localized, orographically induced exceptions to these general climate trends, notably a rapid increase in annual rainfall, and pronounced rain shadows. The Great Escarpment impedes the eastward penetration of winter rain and the westward penetration of summer rain, accentuating seasonal rainfall regimes. While the coast is mild, the escarpment is more extreme, as minimum temperatures decrease and maximum temperatures increase. Different rock types partition the climate gradients of the GCFR into more discrete physiographic units. Fynbos occurs on infertile siliceous sandstone soils associated with the Cape Fold Belt, while succulent karoo and renosterveld occur on more fertile, heavier soils of the coastal forelands and intermontane valleys. However, succulent karoo vegetation can occur on infertile sandstone soils, especially in the west where rainfall is very low. In the absence of fire, both forest and thicket can colonize infertile soils of the GCFR.

Keywords: GCFR; Cape Fold Belt; fynbos; succulent karoo; renosterveld

Chapter.  11388 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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