Biodiversity stewardship in the high-altitude grasslands and wetlands of South Africa

An episode of BirdLife Africa’s Conservation Conversations of great interest to Friends of Verloren Valei.

Conservation conversations is a series of webinars presented by BirdLife Africa. This one features Dr Kyle Lloyd, Rockjumper Fellow of White-winged Flufftail Conservation, who is based in Dullstroom—see our previous interview with Kyle, where he talks about his work.

Kyle is joined by Carina Pienaar, who is the Ingula Project Manager for BirdLife Africa. Ingula is a nature reserve at the Ingula Pumped Storage Station on the border of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. Ingula is South Africa’s 27th nature reserve.

The stewardship concept has been developed in recognition of the fact that conservation cannot depend entirely on the state, and that private landowners can play a very important role in this regard. There are four levels of stewardship that landowners may explore. Making the land into a nature reserve offers the most protection but it requires a high level of commitment and requires compliance with certain restrictions.

The next level down is the protected environment which, Carina said, is the most common strategy adopted. It does allow for agriculture to be continued.

It must be emphasised that any form of stewardship does not involve a dilution of the landowner’s title to his or her land, but rather an agreement with the state to manage the land in terms of basic conservation principles.

One could argue that a key biodiversity reserve like Verloren Valei would benefit hugely from a surrounding buffer zone provided by enlightened landowners.

Grasslands are among the least protected biomes in South Africa, and are threatened by poor agricultural practices, mining and other developmental projects. Only 16% of our grasslands have any sort of protection, and yet they offer a number of vital services to the greater community. For example, grasslands are highly effective carbon sinks, storing around 30% of the world’s organic carbon.

The presentation covered some of the priority grassland areas that BirdLife Africa is focusing on.

The concept of stewardship is one that holds out a lot of hope as we battle to protect our natural heritage. You will find this a rewarding and informative presentation.

View the presentation on YouTube.

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