Project Information for Landowners in the Herbertsdale Mountain Corridor Area
The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) Corridors Project is an initiative to enhance landscape scale ecological processes along mountain ranges and rivers associated with the Gouritz river catchment. Corridors are critical for ecological processes such as pollination, pest control, nutrient cycling and water provision as well as for the long-term survival of wild animals and plants, especially in the context of climate change.
The project aims to establish landscape level strategies for effective fire management, successful invasive alien plant control and improved river and wetland health by means of establishing collaboration between farmers and other landowners. The project aims to assist with implementing practical and cooperative strategies to address threats and opportunities at a landscape scale, to support sustainable farming livelihoods and local biodiversity.
The current focus is on enhancing ecological functionality in the Langeberg Moutains and foothills, between the Weyers River in the West, Ruitersbos Nature Reserve in the East and centred in the Herbertsdale area.
In order to assess the condition of natural assets and develop practical cooperative strategies, farmers in the focus area were visited individually between March and October 2020. The project was introduced, and ecological baseline data were collected on at least 86 farm portions covering some 40 000 ha owned by 34 landowners.
Baseline assessments – October 2020
Natural habitat types in the Herbertsdale Corridor Area include:
- Rivers and wetlands.
- Mountain Fynbos.
- Renosterveld and Thicket habitats.
FIGURE 1. WEYERS RIVER WETLAND
The wetlands are critically important for water storage, dry season river flows and biodiversity conservation.
Threat: Invasive alien plants which destabilise the wetland soils, dry out the wetlands and replace valuable wetland plants.
Objective: (1) To remove invasive alien plants such as black wattle and stink bean; (2) Keep all the wetlands clear of alien plants, and; (3) Identify solutions for erosion in the wetlands.
Opportunity: Some landowners are already investing in invasive plant clearing but with a coordinated approach much more of the objectives can be achieved.
FIGURE 2. PSEUDOBARBUS ASPER (SMALLSCALE REDFIN). FIGURE 3. SANDELLA CAPENSIS (CAPE KURPER).
The rivers of the area are special in that they contain at least three endemic fishes that occur nowhere else in the world, one of which has yet to be given a scientific name. The local rivers are also critical water security for farmers.
Threat: Dense invasive plant infestations on riverbanks, the loss of water and the loss of river habitat suitable for endangered fish.
Objective: (1) Ensure the spread of alien plant biocontrol agents (such as wattle seed eating beetles); (2) Remove small but critical patches of alien plants which threaten the system, and; (3) Eventually eradicate all alien trees from the river system in the long term.
Opportunity: Biocontrol agents for Black Wattle, Hakea, Stink bean and Sesbania are available and can help prevent the spread of alien plant infestations.
Some have already been released into the area by the project.
FIGURE 4. VELD BURNING IN THE MOUNTAIN FYNBOS.
The mountain areas are the source of all our water and must be managed to ensure maximum rainwater infiltration, reduce fire threats and support our world-renowned Cape Flora. Inappropriate veld burning can be a threat to personal property and have serious liability implications. Furthermore, fires at the wrong time can threaten endangered plant species, promote alien plant seedlings and reduce rainwater infiltration – all unwanted outcomes.
Threat: Uncoordinated fire management and alien plan infestations (mostly Hakea).
(1) Apply a burning programme that matches the ecological requirements of the fynbos AND that will ensure maximum rainwater infiltration; (2) Apply a practical fire burning programme that will facilitate the control of alien plants and reduce fire threats to farms, and;
(3) Assist landowners with the control of Hakea, Pine and Black wattle from the mountain catchment area.
Opportunity 1: Many landowners in the area have great experience with burning and many are already members of the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association.
Opportunity 2: Biocontrol agents can be spread in the area to slow down alien plant seed production.
FIGURE 5. AREAS FOR CONNECTIVITY WHICH CAN BE MAINTAINED AS CRITICAL ‘MICRO’ CORRIDORS.
RENOSTERVELD AND THICKET
The remaining fragments of renosterveld and thicket are critically important for ensuring that ecological connectivity is improved or maintained in the area. The main action is to develop mini corridors which will be at a later phase of the project.
Landowner workshops – November 2020
During November 2020 two landowner workshops were held in the project area. The aim of the workshops was to:
share information related to the ecological baselines;
develop consensus on the ecological condition for the ecological units in the project area
develop consensus on a desired ecological condition
generate and gather information from the stakeholders on proposed actions and mechanisms to achieve the shared vision
Actions listed by landowners to achieve the desired ecological condi- tion could be grouped into 22 categories ranging from Invasive Alien Plant
management to wildlife management. Of these responses invasive alien plant management, fire management and biocontrol for invasive alien plants were mentioned the most.
During the workshop the landowners listed numerous stakeholders (such as the Agricultural Research Council, Working for Wetlands, the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, LandCare) they would like to involve in managing the area.
In terms of landowner commitment, some 34 landowners have been engaged to date. Of these 56% now have biodiversity monitoring sites on their farms, 24% are seeking GCBR management advice and 9% are already implementing a management plan promoting ecological functionality across the landscape.