project overview

Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

History of vegetation studies in southern Africa

Historically the most notable study of the vegetation of southern Africa was the work of J.P.H. Acocks. His initiatives in the 1940s and 1950s to document and map the vegetation of South Africa had a significant effect on ecology in the country. Acocks' classification, known as Veld Types of South Africa, soon became the standard reference by which ecologists, farmers and other students of natural systems referred to the indigenous vegetation of South Africa. For more about Acocks' veld types see here. Despite the value of Acocks' Veld Types, it has nevertheless remained unchanged since it was first published about fifty years ago. Therefore an up-to-date appraisal of the vegetation of southern Africa was needed. As an interim measure in 1992, a group of South African botanists, under the auspices of the South African Association of Botanists (SAAB) initiated the production of a revised vegetation map of South Africa based on vegetation structure and species composition. The 'SAAB Map' with its accompanying booklet was published in 1996. The map and booklet were aimed at filling the particular need of schools and tertiary education institutions for information on southern African vegetation.


A collaborative initiative entitled the National Vegetation Map of South Africa Project, or VEGMAP, has now produced a definitive map of the vegetation of southern Africa. Funded by a generous donation from the Environmental Agreement between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway through the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (NORAD/DEAT) the project was managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and was completed by the end of 2006. The VEGMAP is not a revision of Acocks' 'Veld Types' but an entirely new project.


The Vegetation Map 2006 has since been updated. Portions fo the 2006 map have been mapped at a finer scale than 1:250 000. The updates come from fine scale mapping done by local and provincial authorities.