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The National Botanical Institute (NBI) has mapped woody plant species distribution to provide estimates of individual species contribution to peak leaf area index (LAI) for designated vegetation types in southern Africa (Rutherford et al., 2000). The target was to account for 80% of the woody vegetation leaf area in terms of named species, for 80% of the surface area of Africa south of the equator.

The data sources include published and unpublished species lists for vegetation types and individual sample plots, with the species contribution estimated by local experts in terms of dominants and subdominants. Source maps include Low and Rebelo (1998), Giess (1971), Wild and Barbosa (1968), Barbosa (1970), and White (1983). Each source map delineates a wide variety of land cover categories that differ from region to region. Because vegetation discontinuities exist along some of the regional borders and a perfectly continuous regional map could not be achieved within the timeframe and budget of the project, the final map is made up of six independent subregional maps. A cross-referenced database of woody plant species, in order of species dominance, associated with all mapped units is provided.

The data set contains six Geographic Information System (GIS) shapefile archives, each containing a shape file for a given region in southern Africa on a 5 x 5 degree grid. An accompanying ASCII file contains the species list associated with the map files. The regional NBI Vegetation Map (a compilation of the 6 independent subregional coverages) is provided as a JPEG image.

Data Citation:

Cite this data set as follows:

Rutherford, M. C., P. O'Farrel, K. Goldberg, G. F. Midgley, L. W. Powrie, S. Ringrose, W. Mattheson, and J. Timberlake. 2005. SAFARI 2000 NBI Vegetation Map of the Savannas of Southern Africa. Data set. Available on-line [] from Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A. doi:10.3334/ORNLDAAC/787.


Giess, W. 1971. A Preliminary Vegetation Map of South West Africa. Dinteria 4: 5-114.

Low, A. B. and A. G. Rebelo (eds). 1998. Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Pretoria, South Africa. 85 pp.

Rutherford, M. C., P. O'Farrel, K. Goldberg, G. F. Midgley, L. W. Powrie, S. Ringrose, W. Mattheson, and J. Timberlake. 2000. SAFARI 2000: Sub-project 6: Species composition of southern African vegetation, NBI Report. National Botanical Institute, Claremont, South Africa.

White, F. 1983. The vegetation of Africa. Unesco, Switzerland. 356 pp.

Wild, H. and L. A. Grandvauz Barbosa. 1968. Vegetation Map of the Flora Zambeziaca Area. M.O. Collins (Private) Limited, Salisbury, Rhodesia.

Data Format:

The data set consists of six GIS shapefile archives of regions in southern Africa. Each archive contains a shape file for a given region on a 5 x 5 degree grid. There is also an accompanying ASCII file, safari_species_compositions.csv, described below, which contains the species list associated with the map files.

The shapefile format is the current working and interchange GIS format for simple vector data with attributes. A Shapefile stores map (geographic) features and attribute data as a collection of files having the same prefix. The file format consists of three essential files:

XXX.shp - the file that stores the feature geometry (required)
XXX.shx - the file that stores the index of the feature geometry (required)
XXX.dbf - the dBASE file that stores the attribute information of features (required)

Additional files also included:

XXX.sbn - ESRI spatial index file (optional)
XXX.sbx - ESRI spatial index file (optional)
XXX.avl - ESRI ArcView legend file (optional)
XXX.txt - metadata file in text format (optional)

A spatial index results in significantly improved draw and search times. The spatial index is stored in two files (shapefile.SBN and shapefile.SBX) in the same directory as the associated shapefile. The shapefiles have the following attributes:

Field Name Definition
Uid Unique identifier
Veg_id Numeric class ID linked to the valVegID field in the .csv file
Vegetation Include the value of Veg_id as well as a text description of the vegetation class.

The safari_species_compositions.csv file contains the following information:

Field Name Definition Sample Data Record
ShapeFile Regional shapefile Zambezi Area
valVegID ID for vegetation unit in the specific shapefile 4
Rank Abundance rank for species in vegetation unit 13
Taxon Name of taxon Combretum elaeagnoides Klotzsch
FamilyName Family of taxon COMBRETACEAE
TaxonInSource Name of taxon name as used in the original source Combretum elaeagnoides
Tree Indication of whether the taxon is tree or probably tree (for cases where the operator was uncertain of the species in question) Tree
Woody Indication of whether the taxon is woody or probably woody (for cases where the operator was uncertain of the species in question)  

Additional information about the data sources, source maps, and methodolgy is found in the companion file: This companion file contains the regional NBI Vegetation Map (which includes a compilation of the 6 independent sub-regional coverages listed above) as safari_wooded_vegetation.jpg.

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