Vegetation structure characteristics and relationships of Kalahari woodlands and savannas


Jeffrey L. Privette, tel. +1 301 614 6630, fax +1 301 614 6695, e-mail:


The Kalahari Transect is one of several International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme (IGBP) transects designed to address global change questions at the regional scale, in particular by exploiting natural parameter gradients (Koch et al., 1995). In March 2000, we collected near-synoptic vegetation structural data at five sites spanning the Kalahari's large precipitation gradient (about 300–1000 mm yr−1) from southern Botswana (∼24°S) to Zambia (∼15°S). All sites were within the expansive Kalahari sandsheet. Common parameters, including plant area index (PAI), leaf area index (LAI) and canopy cover (CC), were measured or derived using several indirect instruments and at multiple spatial scales. Results show that CC and PAI increase with increasing mean annual precipitation. Canopy clumping, defined by the deviation of the gap size distribution from that of randomly distributed foliage, was fairly constant along the gradient. We provide empirical relationships relating these parameters to each other and to precipitation. These results, combined with those in companion Kalahari Transect studies, provide a unique and coherent test bed for ecological modeling. The data may be used to parameterize process models, as well as test internally predicted parameters and their variability in response to well-characterized climatological differences.