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 of 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.

VEGMAP 2012 (beta version)

The Vegetation Map 2009 has been further updated with a beta version of the map. Changes made in the 2009 version were retained and additional portions of the 2006 map have been mapped at a finer scale. The updates come from fine scale mapping done by contributing partners, local and provincial authorities.

The 2012 version of the VEGMAP is the most updated version of the 2006 Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland and is recommended as reference for spatial planning work. However, the conservation targets in the 2012 version have not been formally assessed and values have been estimated based on 2006 values. Attributes such as Threat Status and Protection Status will be recalculated for the next version. Therefore, the 2006 version of the map is still currently the citable version and the 2012 version is the latest update. The next version of the VEGMAP will be a revision of previous versions.

NOTE: Nomenclature of the Vegetation Map versions: Please note that the name of each shapefile release reflects the year in which proposed changes were ratified and DO NOT reflect the release date of that shapefile i.e. the Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland 2009 includes all decisions which were ratified by the National Vegetation Map Committee in the year 2009 and these changes were implemented in the years thereafter until its official release in 2012.