A synfloristic comparison of Oribi Gorge and Umtamvuna Nature Reserves.
Climatic oscillation during the Quaternary resulted in fragmentation of once more continuous ancient floras and a series of invasions of different floras into the Pondoland Centre in response to climatic change, with some elements invading more than once. This implies both a temporally complex and a floristically complex origin for the extant flora of the Centre. Data derived from analysis of the melange of extant floristic elements in the Pondoland Centre is presented in support of this hypothesis. A synfloristic comparison of Oribi Gorge (OGNR) and Umtamvuna Nature Reserves (UNR) is the basis for this study. A comparison of the species lists generated for OGNR and UNR reveals that 24% of the 1514 angiosperm species are shared. The familial composition of the reserves is similar, with eight of the ten most diverse families contributing a similar proportion of species to the respective floras, with the exception of Acanthaceae. The ten most diverse families comprise a comparatively small proportion of the respective floras; this is indicative of high diversity over long geological periods, i.e. of refugia. Analysis at the generic level revealed similar consistancy between the two gorge floras. Approximately 4% of the UNR species and 2.3% of OGNR species are Pondoland Centre endemics. Approximately 40% of the endemic species are shared by the gorges. Data reveals that both palaeoendemic (predominantly woody, forest taxa) and neoendemic (predominantly herbaceous or suffrutescent, grassland taxa) species occur. The Pondoland Centre is thus a refugium for species trapped on the Msikaba Group sandstones as a result of climatic oscillation during the Quaternary, and a centre of neoendemism. OGNR and UNR floras include Cape, Afromontane and tropical elements (11.3%, 2.8% and 19.1% respectively for OGNR and 16%,3.4% and 15.3% respectively for UNR). Seventy - two percent of Afromontane species are shared, indicating a relatively recent invasion(s) and lor the relative proximity of the gorges to the Afromontane flora. The lower species overlap in the Cape element (39.2%) of the two gorges implies that the invasion of the element is ancient, with subsequent extinction of many of the taxa from OGNR in response to climatic change. It is also possible that this invasion was initally less successful; fewer species found refuge in OGNR. The tropical element comprises the largest proportion of the flora in both gorges and many (ca. 50%) of the species are shared. The degree of species overlap indicates that the invasive flora was either initially more similar or that it is tess prone to extinction. The level of overlap could also suggest that the invasion was more recent than that of the Cape taxa. The tropical element is larger in OGNR and the Cape element is larger in UNR. This is partly due to the gorges' respective proximities to the tropical and Cape floras. This trend is echoed in the endemic data. iv The conservation status of the endemics and of the Pondoland vegetation types is established and recommendations for further research are made. The data support the establishment of a larger UNR, the maintenance of both Umtamvuna and Oribi Gorge as formal nature reserves and the establishment of a new reserve (or reserves) within the Pondoland Centre.