A comparative study of the plant ecology of three estuaries : Mgeni, Mhlanga and Mdloti.
The vegetation of the Mgeni Estuary, Mhlanga Estuary and Mdloti Estuary was analysed according to the Braun-Blanquet phytosociological method using quadrats of 4m2 and 25m2 in area placed subjectively and the Point-Centred Quarter method with points chosen whilst traversing. A classification of plant communities is given. These are described floristically and related to habitat variables. Indicator species of the climatic climax of coast forest occur within the study area. The absence of coast forest is ascribed to low altitude, tidal inundation and the consequent effect of salinity, basal inundation resulting in a high water-table and the influence of man. The floodplain of the Mgeni Estuary is dominated by mangrove vegetation comprising mainly Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Avicennia marina whereas vegetation established on Athlone Island is dominated by mesophytic thicket comprising mainly Schinus terebinthifolius, Lantana camara, Chromolaena odorata and Cardiospermum grandiflorum. The floodplain of the Mhlanga Estuary is dominated by Phragmites australis. The shores of the Mdloti Estuary are dominated by Barringtonia racemosa, Phragmites australis and Echinochloa pyramidalis. Major differences in vegetation patterns of the three systems are related primarily to the differences in the open nature of the river mouths. This is controlled mainly by river flow and longshore drift. Differences in vegetation patterns within an estuary are dependent on differences in tolerances to salinity, basal inundation and shade, together with variations in altitude and edaphic factors and competition between species. Generally soils of Mgeni Estuary had higher contents of small sized fractions, bulk densities, reserve acidities, organic matter, salts and exchangeable bases and lower pH than soils at Mhlanga Estuary and Mdloti Estuary. Differences exist between mangrove and non-mangrove soils at Mgeni Estuary and differences between the non- mangrove soils at the three study sites. Major differences in soil characteristics are as a result of differences in tidal inundation, geogenetic parameters and biotic factors. Information on topography, hydrology, geology, climatic factors, biotic factors and historical background of the area is given. A check-list of vascular plants is included. The work is illustrated by 44 figures.
- Masters Degrees (Botany) 
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