Vegetation succession and soil properties following the removal of pine plantations on the eastern shores of Lake St Lucia, South Africa.
Pine plantations have been established on secondary grassland on the dune systems of the Eastern Shores of Lake St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa for the past 40 years. These plantations have been progressively felled for the past six years, and will continue to be felled until the year 2011, by which time they will be eliminated. Space-for-time substitution was used to determine the direction of both woody and herbaceous vegetation succession and to predict possible future management implications for the Eastern Shores. Soil samples were taken from undisturbed grassland, grassland with trees, dune forest, pine plantations, and clearfelled areas at various successional stages. To determine the effects of the pine plantations on the soils of the area, soils were subjected to particle size analysis, and determination of pH, organic carbon, phosphorus, exchangeable bases, iron and aluminium. Minimal modification of the sandy soils by the pine plantations was found to have occurred. That which did occur was shown to be short-term, and to be ameliorated by the establishment of an indigenous woody understorey, resembling pioneer dune forest. Soil under plantations was shown to have a lower pH and cation exchange capacity than under opposite indigenous vegetation but no other direct effects were observed. The direction of succession was determined by the nature of the indigenous vegetation adjacent to the plantation. Pine plantations were shown to facilitate succession towards dune forest by the exclusion of fire, provision of perches and refugia for forest-dwelling animals, and creation of a forest environment for the establishment of trees. However, the extent of re-establishment of indigenous dune forest under pine plantations was shown to be directly related to the nature of the adjacent indigenous vegetation, be it grassland, grassland with trees or dune forest.
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