Three granite inselbergs and six dolerite dykes and their surroundings were investigated in the Central Namib, at the interface between the Namib Desert and Nama Karoo biomes. The main objectives of this study included a phytosociological interpretation of the described plant communities, explanation of the correlation of the communities with environmental variables and quantification of the relative contribution of different types of variables to structuring plant communities. Nine grassland and shrubland plant communities were recognized, largely organized according to general habitat, elevation, size of inselberg and geology. Soil properties, often thought to play an important role in arid environments, showed no clear patterns in the level of analyses used in this study. Other environmental parameters of importance in arid mountain habitats, such as slope aspect and angle, also played a minor role. The main implications of the study are: 1. Central Namib inselbergs, particularly granite domes, harbour diverse plant communities, often with species from neighbouring higher rainfall areas, and are thus of high conservation value. 2. The poor contribution of environmental variables in this study, which are conventionally used in field studies of plant community – environment relationships, may demand a critical review of additional parameters to be included when analysing plant community – environment relations in arid environments. In particular between-season variation, phytogeographic aspects and the heterogeneity of microhabitats, often contained within a plant community, need to be taken into account.
Nomenclature: Craven (1999).