Recently, a two day training workshop that focused on identifying common plants in the Three Peaks Conservation area was held for the Eco-Rangers and three Biodiversity and Red Meat Initiative (BRI) compliance officers in the Leliefontein Church hall.
Conrad Geldenhuys, a botanist at the Northern Cape’s Provincial Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC) facilitated the training. Geldenhuys started with providing a background on Namaqualand, its climate and the processes driving the weather patterns such as ocean currents, the trading winds, winter rainfall and the importance of mist.
The second section of Geldenhuys’s presentation focused on the most important and common plant families in the Succulent Karoo and the main characteristics of each family. The following families were covered:
This section was particularly was enjoyed by the participants as they were very familiar with most of the plant families and their characteristics. Attention was also paid to basic plant anatomy, and invader plant species in South Africa. Here the difference between alien invader plants and problem plants was explained. The effects of alien plant invaders, their different categories and control measures were explored.
Red Data assessment according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards and the additional three categories listed for South Africa according to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) were also discussed.
Distribution maps of species with a Red Data status were shown and explained. The criteria for determining ecosystem conservation statuses were elaborated on thereafter. Lastly basic guidelines on how to photograph plants for identification purposes were presented. This information can be used by all Eco-Rangers and will aid Conservation South Africa (CSA) staff to better identify plants. Each participant received a Sakboek Veldgids for the Three Peaks Conservation area.
On the second day the participants went for a walk about in the field. Here they were able to ask for help when identifying plants that they did not know. This was a wonderful interactive session and everybody learnt a great deal. The knowledge of the local people on different uses for various plant species and which plants are utilized by stock during different seasons was very enriching.
“I would like to thank Conrad Geldenhuys on behalf of CSA for offering the training and the informative and interesting presentations” said Halcyone Muller, field ecologist at CSA. ” I would also like to extend a great thank you to Annelise le Roux for her willingness to let us use sections of the Namaqualand Wild Flower Guide for the Sakboek Veldgids.”
Highlights of the training workshop are that there has been a request for field guides to be made available to the Eco-Rangers and the BRI compliance officers. It was noted that more training can be provided on alien invader species and their categories by the Department of Agriculture. It is also envisaged that for future plant identification training sessions, other vegetation types be visited as well.