Vegetation Dynamics and Species Diversity in a Saharan Oasis, Egypt
Keywords:agro-ecosystem; arid environment; multivariate analysis; vegetation
The present study provides an analysis of the floristic composition, habitat types, vegetation structure and species diversity, elucidating the role of the environmental factors that affect species distribution in Kharga Oasis, Western Desert, Egypt. The vegetation was sampled from 89 permanently visited stands in 12 sites situated along N - S line transect across the oasis, and extending for about 185 km to cover as much as possible the physiognomic variation in habitats. Four main habitats were recognized and forming concentric zones (from inside to outside): farmlands and date-palm orchards represent the inner zone, the waste-salinized lands (not saltmarshes) in the middle zone, and the surrounding (bounding) desert in the outer zone. A total of 122 species from 35 families and 102 genera represented the flora of the study area. Poaceae, Asteraceae and Fabaceae were the major families, which constituted 47% of the total flora. Classification using Bray-Curtis cluster analysis produced 4 vegetation groups (A - D); each can be linked to a certain habitat. The arrangement of habitat zones along the first DCA axis can be noticed: outer zone (bounding desert), middle zone (waste-salinized lands) and inner zone (arable lands). On the other hand, farmlands and date-palm orchard groups were separated from each other along the second DCA axis. The relationship between the vegetation and soil variables was studied using Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA); it was indicated the most important environmental gradients those control the vegetation composition and the distribution pattern of species in Kharga Oasis, which were mainly related to gradients in soil moisture content and fine fractions. The present situation of Kharga Oasis urges the conservation of some old historic wells and the naturally growing open dom-palm forests before vanishing due to high human activities in the area.
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