Plant Identification Training: The Bigger Picture

Jan 30, 2024 | General News

Training of the interns on Plant Identification and Baseline Assessments

Louis Jordaan, Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve’s Extension Officer for the Klein Karoo area, provided our Groen Sebenza interns with training on plant identification within the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) region. Louis is very knowledgeable and passionate about the indigenous plant species growing within the region.

The GCBR is characterised by high endemism of plant species, which means they occur nowhere else on earth. At least 670 of the approximate 5,000 plant species found in the Biosphere Reserve are endemic. Even the arid inland portion of the region is rich in endemic species, with at least 400 of the 3,200 plant species restricted to the Biosphere Reserve.

This training aims to equip the interns with an understanding of the diversity of indigenous plant species and technical in-field skills for identifying and documenting the indigenous plants within the region.

Some feedback from the interns:

“Learning about the different pollinators and the interconnection they have with the plants was mind bowling! I also really enjoyed the clarity Louis provided in terms of how one uses the book to identify a plant by starting with the “family” that ends with aceae.” – Leila

“The GCBR region has over five thousand indigenous plants, which can be tricky when trying to identify them; the training has provided practical tools that will help me identify the plants in the field”.  – Nelisiwe

Plant Identification Training with Louis

Why plant identification and baseline assessments are important for GCBR as an organisation

Part of our efforts to restore degraded areas within the region involve replanting indigenous plants within the degraded areas. To do so, a detailed survey and baseline assessment of the area is required to identify indigenous plants growing within the area. Baseline assessment and plant identification are essential for strategic planning. The GCBR can use this information to prioritise areas for restoration, allocate resources effectively, and implement targeted interventions based on the specific needs of different areas, as well as for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of restoration projects. It allows the GCBR to track vegetation changes over time, assess the success of replanting efforts, and make informed decisions for adaptive management.

Upskilling the Interns on plant identification and baseline assessments

Over the past year the interns have had the opportunity to conduct plant identification and surveys under the guidance of experienced consultants and advisors of the organisation, such as Dr. Donovan Kotze and Cosman Bolus. The interns attended a field workshop with Rozanne Steyn from RS Environmental Services to prepare them for site assessments, inspections, monitoring, and evaluation of previously worked areas. Additionally, they have assisted with mapping the plants planted in Tuin op Die Brak a Fynbos Park located in Stilbaai East. They received a comprehensive iNaturalist training session facilitated by Shaun Swanepoel and have started using the tool to verify the plants they identified in the area. iNaturalist is a tool used ‍globally ‍for ‍documenting ‍and ‍identifying ‍observed ‍organisms ‍ ‍( Louis Jordaan’s training is vital in equipping them with the necessary skills for the task that lies ahead of them in 2024.

The interns did some work and training in the past year related to plant identification

Data-driven restoration efforts within degraded areas of the GCBR region

Leading the team on field plant identification and baseline assessments will be Lee-Ann Pretorius and Leila Moosajee; they have already started with the initial analysis and planning stages for fieldwork, which included preparing suitable methods for collating comprehensive data to derive meaningful insights for monitoring before and after restoration work.

Yaaseen Bodhanya is preparing high-resolution imagery to facilitate the identification of clusters in the target area before initiating fieldwork. The imagery will be valuable during the initial analysis and planning stages. The accuracy of identified clusters will be verified through on-site fieldwork, ensuring the reliability of data and assessments. In Addition, the high-resolution imagery will be used for before-and-after analyses during subsequent monitoring efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration work.

Nelisiwe Khusi is preparing indicative 50- and 100-year flood lines for the area, which involves the analysis of topography, hydrology, and relevant factors to predict water flow during flooding events. Modelling the flood lines will assist in making informed decisions about where and how to conduct restoration work, ensuring  the replanted indigenous plants are resilient to potential flooding.

All the work is done under the guidance and supervision of their mentor, Rita Liebenberg (Gouritz Corridors and Restoration Programme Manager), and Mark Jantjies (Field Manager & Programme Assistant). We are looking forward to the outcomes of the work that the interns will be undertaking this year.

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