The South African National Vegetation Database: History, development, applications, problems and future

  • Michael C. Rutherford South African National Biodiversity Institute
  • Ladislav Mucina Curtin University
  • Leslie W. Powrie South African National Biodiversity Institute
Keywords: conservation targets, data combinations, ecoinformatics, locality confidence, species bias, Turboveg


Southern Africa has been recognised as one of the most interesting and important areas of the world from an ecological and evolutionary point of view. The establishment and development of the National Vegetation Database (NVD) of South Africa enabled South Africa to contribute to environmental planning and conservation management in this floristically unique region. In this paper, we aim to provide an update on the development of the NVD since it was last described, near its inception, more than a decade ago. The NVD was developed using the Turboveg software environment, and currently comprises 46 697 vegetation plots (relevés) sharing 11 690 plant taxa and containing 968 943 species occurrence records. The NVD was primarily founded to serve vegetation classification and mapping goals but soon became recognised as an important tool in conservation assessment and target setting. The NVD has directly helped produce the National Vegetation Map, National Forest Type Classification, South African National Biodiversity Assessment and Forest Type Conservation Assessment. With further development of the NVD and more consistent handling of the legacy data (old data sets), the current limitations regarding certain types of application of the data should be significantly reduced. However, the use of the current NVD in multidisciplinary research has certainly not been fully explored. With the availability of new pools of well-trained vegetation surveyors, the NVD will continue to be purpose driven and serve the needs of biological survey in pursuit of sustainable use of the vegetation and flora resources of the southern African subcontinent.

Author Biography

Michael C. Rutherford, South African National Biodiversity Institute
Stellenbosch University
South Africa


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