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Geography Explained

South African Geography

Western Cape: This is a geographical region from about Springbok to Cape Town to about Bredasdorp, but may extend eastwards to Mossel Bay or even to PE depending on context.

West Coast: This is the area from about Oranjemund to Gordon's Bay Western Cape Province is a province as defined politically and is roughly about 1/3 part of the old Cape Province.  This is the map you will find on the tourist information websites.

Have a look at the Map of South Africa and its nine provinces.

Plant Geography

Winter rainfall area:  That part of the subcontinent getting winter rainfall.
Usually exclusive - from about Luderitz (Namibia) along the bottom/top (depending) of the western escarpment to Sutherland and hence down to Breede River Mouth or Gouritz River Mouth.
Inclusive - including the all year rainfall region - move boundary over 50km in north and Sutherland, and then include up to Port Elizabeth.  East of this is summer rainfall and is usually thunderstorms and intertropical convergence thunderstorm like rains, versus the predominantly cold frontal systems and mist of the winter rainfall area.

Cape Floral Kingdom:  This is a  biogeographical term: That part of the subcontinent with exceptionally high  (plant) species richness and endemism.  ie.. from Nieuwoudtville down to Touws River to Steytlerville to PE (and seawards of these), with outliers at Grahamstown and Kamiesberg. It thus corresponds primarily with Fynbos and Afromontane Forest.  Succulent Karoo areas within this area are included, but those outside of this area are left out.

Cape Floristic Region:  This is a floristic term:  That part of the subcontinent with Fynbos, including Afromontane Forest.  Largely synonymous with the Cape Floral Kingdom, but there have been calls to include all of the Succulent Karoo in a "Winter Rainfall" Cape Floral Region.  For listings of species, inclusive areas of Succulent Karoo are included. The Cape Floral Kingdom and the Cape Floral Region are only similar because Fynbos has by far the majority of the regions endemics and species.  If it were not for this fact, they could have been quite different: the distinction is Cape Floral Kingdom is defined on a global scale by species distribution patterns, whereas the latter is defined locally based on species distribution patterns.  Worldwide, it is only in the Cape Floral Kingdom of all the 6 floral Kingdoms, that local patterns show up at the global scale.

Have a look at the Map of the Cape Floral Region.

Fynbos Biome:  This is a biophysiological unit:  That vegetation that is characterized by Schlerophyllous vegetation (small plants, fine leaves) and fire-controlled ecosystem processes.  There are two major vegetation types (Fynbos and Renosterveld vegetation types, usually collectively lumped as "Fynbos") with Thicket and Forest explicitly excluded.

Fynbos: This is a vegetation type:  A fire-dominated vegetation characterized by Proteas, Ericas and Restios (Cape Reeds), technically defined as any vegetation with more than 5% cover of Restios.  Restios replace grasses typical of elsewhere in Africa (the world?).  Occurs on nutrient poor soils in the winter and all-year rainfall region, and has exceptional floristic diversity.  At present about 60 types are recognized.

Renosterveld: This is a fire-dominated vegetation characterized by smelly daisies, high abundance of bulbs and grasses.  This grows on richer soils and is where the large mammals and Khoi herds used to occur.  It is named after the daisy Renosterbos, which was named after the Rhinoceros (reason unknown - only animal supposed to have eaten it).  At present over 20 types are recognized. Both Fynbos and Renosterveld are replaced by Succulent Karoo in drier areas, and by Forest and Thicket in wetter and fire-protected areas.

Overall:  Cape Floral Kingdom, Cape Floral Region and Fynbos occur in the Western Cape region, but they occur in the Northern Cape Province (5%), Western Cape  Province (70%) and Eastern Cape Province (25%).  Of the Western Cape Province, about 60% is Fynbos Biome, the vast majority of the rest being Succullent Karoo, with a little Thicket and Nama Karoo and some Forest. 

Tony Rebelo

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