From the 5th to the 11th of September, Conservation South Africa (CSA) and Nurture Restore Initiative (NRI) held a travelling workshop that focused on ecological restoration within the Arid Zone. This workshop consisted of leading Southern African, American and Australian experts in the ecological restoration of degraded lands in arid, semi-arid and renosterveld ecosystems.
Members of the NRI, CSA, Agricultural Research Council (ARC), South African National Parks (SANParks), Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (Kings Park) & The University of Western Australia, City of Cape Town (CCT) Nature Conservation, University of Stellenbosch, University of Cape Town & the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust participated. Exploring integrated approaches and a diversity of methods, while taking time to visit restoration sites in the field, were central to the goals of this learning exchange.
The information sharing sessions covered mined, wetland, ploughed, overgrazed and other rehabilitation sites in Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Arid Savanna and Renosterveld, with the aim of exploring degraded and intact landscapes as well as numerous research sites and restoration trials.
The travelling workshop is contextualised within a research programme looking at ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) to climate change in South Africa (dry terrestrial), the Philippines (marine) and Brazil (coastal forest). Conservation International is implementing the project, whilst CSA is coordinating the South African component and NRI is collaborating on the project as a core partner. The grant is research based and has five key outcomes. The travelling workshop then forms part of scientific review and thinking determining ecologically effective and cost-effective EbA.
The focus on the first day of the travelling workshop in Olifantshoek was on large-scale mining and mine site restoration and rehabilitation in arid lands. The second session of the travelling workshop was held in the Kamiesberg Uplands and was very field based. CSA, NRI, and ARC restoration research trials and experiments were visited. Research projects visited included a Kraalbos veld & Renosterbos veld restoration experiment comparing similarities and differences in degradation, ecology and restoration of these veld types using a variety of treatments; a ‘seed islands’ project, testing the effectiveness of fencing small areas as a seed bank for rangeland improvement; and a wetland re-vegetation trial.
Stops en route to look at some of the different habitats in Namaqualand and the Northern and Western Cape enabled discussion on different end states to aim for with restoration activities. Walks into the veld were held to discuss rehabilitation ideas, to share information and to look at the structure of arid savannah, and field based activities in the Kamiesberg Uplands.
During the last two days of the travelling workshop, the core group of 11 participants was joined by additional Cape-based researchers and practitioners. These days were composed of a mixture of presentations and site visits, this time focusing on Fynbos and Renosterveld restoration in the winter rainfall south Western Cape. Presentations focused on habitat restoration in the Loxton area, at Blaauwberg and Tygerberg nature reserves, and in the similar ecosystem types of the wheatbelt in Southwestern Australia, and the Renosterveld patches of the upper Kamiesberg. Many similarities in the kinds of degradation drivers, and rehabilitation challenges, were identified and discussed in detail.
Site visits were conducted to Blaauwberg Nature Reserve and Tygerberg Nature Reserve in the Cape Town area. At Blaauwberg the participants were able to compare Fynbos, Renosterveld and coastal dune vegetation and restoration methods. At Tygerberg participants walked the reserve to explore the effects of the reserve’s fire management system on Renosterveld, looking at sites on south and north facing slopes where ecological fires have been carried out in the late summers of 2010, 2011 and 2012.
With a focus on innovative solutions, integrated project design, adaptive management and problem solving, the group was able to identify potential for rehabilitation to take place in a way that is ecologically effective, cost-effective, and occurs within a reasonable timeframe for people to see the benefits. The workshop was highly beneficial, and maintained a stimulating balance between theory and practice, and between research and implementation.