“Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy and habitable by all species” – Sir David Attenborough
The Cape Floral Kingdom is the most diverse and smallest floral kingdom in the world, yet one of the most threatened. Invasive alien vegetation, habitat removal and degradation are damaging the ecosystem that boasts more than 9000 plant species. Intact fynbos provides essential ecosystem services such as good water catchment systems and several economic uses such as fynbos for bouquets, honey, medicinal and edible plants.
Now a new threat has been knocking on the door of fynbos and its survival: climate change.
Unfortunately for fynbos, due to human actions, the climate is changing too fast which is causing grave imbalances in nature. According to years of research done by The Western Cape Department of Agriculture and independent scientists for the SmartAgri Plan, temperatures will rise up to 3˚C by 2050 in the Province. This means less winter rainfall, longer dry-spells and destructive heat waves.
This is already evident from the 3 year drought experienced by the Cape, being one of the first cities to experience the true impacts of climate change. Such extreme weather is predicted to become more prevalent in future.
Here are 6 reasons that show why climate change is a real threat to fynbos:
Estimates of the potential impacts of climate change in the Cape Floristic Region show that the Fynbos biome could exhibit between 51% and 65% loss of area (Dept of Agriculture, Western Cape: SmartAgri).
Plant species richness is set to diminish due to warmer weather and drying, as well as changing fire regimes and invasive plants.
Fynbos species harvested for the wild will be pressured by climate changes, via smaller populations, habitat fragmentation and impacts on product quality (retailers have strict standards for harvested plant products). Already the very severe drought in the Western Cape is impacting on this economy.
Fynbos provides jobs and livelihoods to an estimated 20,000 people (Cape Flora SA). For many rural communities in the Western Cape, harvesting of wild flowers is the only economic activity available to sustain their families. Without fynbos to pick, these communities will suffer financially.
Fynbos is dependent on fire to germinate, but then needs rainfalls for the seedlings to then develop. But with the weather patterns changing, and fynbos struggling to grow in some parts of the province, invasive aliens take over.
6: WATER EXTRACTION
With uncertain water supply in our dams, we are going to be more and more reliant on underground water. A number of the unique Cape Flora Families are dependent on our perennial aquifer fed streams. The impacts of this water extraction on our fynbos species is unknown to date, but ecologists are extremely concerned.
Some of these climate change threats are unavoidable, but others such as removal of alien invasive vegetation and sustainable solutions to water use can help mitigate the situation. In time of drought the City of Cape Town halved its water consumption, a feat not easily achieved, but showcases our ability to make large scale positive change together as a society.
Invasive alien clearing, under the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) banner, has started up again across the Agulhas Plain. The alien clearing project is coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust (the Coordination Unit and Secretariat of ABI), with funds for the clearing operations sourced from the Department of Environmental Affairs.
That means that around 160 project participants are back in the natural landscapes across the Plain. They’ll be clearing around 15,000 hectares over the next four months.
The project is once again operating according to an innovative model: the Flower Valley team works with nine conservancies and land user groups, who in turn work with their landowner members.
Through this model, Flower Valley Conservation Trust (a Public Benefit Organisation) serves as the implementing agent, the key contact with the Department of Environmental Affairs.
The conservancies play a major role in rolling out and implementing the project, and provide extensive co-funding to the clearing operations.
The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative is a landscape initiative, structured as a voluntary association that serves the Overberg area. ABI has four themes according to which it works, the first being integrated land-use planning, including the clearing of invasive species.
Alien invasives are one of the biggest threats to the Overberg’s natural landscapes – especially the area’s threatened fynbos vegetation.
From 2013, the ABI Alien Clearing Project has cleared approximately 30,000 hectares per year up to 2016. Since then, the Flower Valley team has been in constant communications with the Department of Environmental Affairs, to ensure the gains made in the past are not lost.
This Thursday (April 13) is International Plant Appreciation Day. And what better way to celebrate and appreciate our fabulous fynbos!
So we’ve got 4 reasons to get into the fynbos on Thursday (and any other day, for that matter).
This endangered pretty pink flower only grows from July to October and is only found in three locations in the world – one of them on Flower Valley Farm. This Erica species used to be harvested for the fynbos bouquet industry. But the fynbos industry and others involved in fynbos soon realised this was not smart. And so harvesting of Erica irregularis was stopped – before extinction!
The Aloe juddii is very new to the aloe family – and was only discovered a few years back. This phenomenal new species can only be seen on Flower Valley Farm and Farm215, on high rocky sandstone slopes. Although it’s believed to also occur elsewhere, experts say its population is decreasing, threatened by invasive plants.
A wonderful species which was spotted after a small fire in our region in 2004 – by Heiner Lutzeyer of Grootbos. This vulnerable species can be found flowering on Flower Valley Farm from October to November and has the most spectacular white bulb-like petals. The Lachenalia lutzeyeri loves the sun and grows after a fire. But irregular fires are a major threat to this Lachenalia.
Another vulnerable species that we love on Flower Valley Farm is the Leucospermum patersonii – the silver-edge pincushion. This dark orange pincushion blooms between August and November and the sugarbirds use the plant as a landing pad for them to collect sweet nectar. They make for a beautiful sight on Flower Valley Farm in October.
These interesting plant species are a must see on Flower Valley Farm.
Just remember your hiking shoes and a camera!
Photo credit: Flower Valley Conservation Trust and Fynbos Hub
Landowners and municipalities are now required to have a plan to control invasive species on their properties, and have an obligation to remove these species.
New National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) regulations came into force on 1 October 2016. According to the new laws, invasive species are now considered a legal liability to property owners.
The new regulations also states that property sellers must inform potential buyers of invasive species that are found on the property, thereby encouraging estate agents to play a role in encouraging the sale of properties that are clear of invasive species.
An updated invasive species list was also published, replacing older lists. The new list categorises 379 invasive terrestial and fresh water plant species, and a further 4 invasive marine plant species. The species are categorised as Category 1a, 1b, 2 or 3 species.
Flower Valley has coordinated the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme over the past three years, working with government, landowners and project participants to clear invasive species on around 30,000 hectares a year.
The programme forms part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Land User Incentive Scheme. While the Department provided the funding for the clearing work and the transport, land users and other stakeholders involved provided co-funding commitments and ensured the programme was rolled out successfully.
The programme ended during 2016. Negotiations are ongoing with the Department for the next three year cycle. Annual clearing plans have been developed with landowners and other stakeholders for the next three years, prioritising biodiversity-rich areas that require follow-up clearing work. It’s hoped clearing operations will start within the coming weeks.
The partners are working together to develop systems to detect and identify invasive alien plants in the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme-area in the Overberg. Flower Valley Conservation Trust coordinates ABI.
Through support from the Table Mountain Fund (an associated Trust of WWF-South Africa), the partners are also finding ways to monitor invasive alien specie populations, the areas in which they grow, and how the population densities change over time, while capturing invasive alien clearing data in a way that is not administratively burdensome for land users.
A researcher is now being sought to evaluate existing monitoring and evaluation tools used by Working for Water, and other organisations. From here, cost effective and scientifically robust methodologies will be developed that land users can make use of.
Through the position, landowners and other stakeholders will also receive training support on how to control invasive alien species on private land.
Working for Water programmes are generally known to in some instances include costly record-keeping tools that have heavy administrative requirements. Many of these tools cannot be optimally used by private landowners. It’s hoped through this project to develop user-friendly ways for landowners to capture and record their information.
A new invasive plant species has been identified on the Agulhas Plain. The Evergreen Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus) has been located on two properties in the area. Although the species has not yet been listed as an invasive plant under the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), it is considered a threat to the Western Cape.
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is now working with Flower Valley Conservation Trust to control and look to eradicate this species on the properties. These two partners will now work closely in piloting efficient treatment and control measures, which will include data collection on treatments, population size and the rate of spread. Flower Valley coordinates the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme.
The Kangaroo Paw stems from Southwest Australia, although it is commercially grown in other countries throughout the world, including the USA and Japan. It is used as an ornamental flower, with some of its artificial hybrids used for the cut-flower market.
Due to its adaptability to different soil types, and ability to cope with water stress, it is considered a threat. The species is also immune to most fungal attacks. It’s believed that the species can be eradicated from the Agulhas Plain, given that it is believed to not have spread beyond the two properties as yet.
The Agulhas Plain, where the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Project is taking place, has been selected as the pilot study site to investigate the use of invasive alien plant biomass for energy.
The ABI Alien Clearing Project is coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust. Through the project, around 30,000 hectares of land are being cleared of invasive alien plants every year. The project is also creating around 160 jobs for project participants. The majority of the funding was secured from the Department of Environmental Affairs, through its Land User Incentive Scheme. However, landowners and other stakeholders involved in the project are providing co-funding.
The project, currently in its third year, has resulted in a considerable amount of alien plant biomass being left in the veld. Experts believe this biomass could be used and converted to various energy products.
In order to assess this opportunity, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in a study funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs, will now investigate how much invasive alien plant biomass is available in the area. The ABI Alien Clearing Project is operating on private land across the Agulhas Plain, the region between Hermanus and De Hoop.
According to Dr William Stafford of the CSIR at the ABI Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday, 24 June, the CSIR study will also investigate the feasibility of biomass to energy projects, looking at the opportunities for local or regional energy use, versus supplying the national grid. Additional products from biomass, including heat, charcoal and biochar, will be considered.
Dr Stafford said, “There are 160 million dry tons of invasive plants standing on the landscape in South Africa. And these invasives are spreading at 10 percent per year. That’s a ten-fold increase if we do nothing.” He said that Working for Water programmes had managed to reduce that spread by one percent. “But we want zero percent growth – that’s the ideal situation.” The study will be completed by end-March 2016.
ABI, a landscape initiative working across the Overberg region, has been operating since 2003. The ABI Partnership works together to secure a productive and healthy natural environment in the area, and includes landowners, government department officials, officials from CapeNature and SANParks, and NGOs. ABI is chaired by Agri Wes-Cape President, Cornie Swart.
Time is running out to Adopt a Fynbos Hectare on Flower Valley Farm. The campaign – aimed at securing the resources to protect and conserve Flower Valley Farm for 2015 – ends on 7 December 2014.
Flower Valley Farm is the home of Flower Valley Conservation Trust, based outside Gansbaai in the Western Cape. The farm offers pristine fynbos-covered mountains and valleys, as well as a Stinkwood Forest. The farm is one of the few remaining properties that is still completely covered in fynbos and forests – despite the growing pressure on farming enterprises to diversify into other farming activities to boost profitability.
Flower Valley Farm was bought in 1999 by Fauna and Flora International, after they were approached by a concerned individual followingthreats that the farm could be converted to viticulture. The Trust was set up then, initially to protect the many rare and endangered fynbos species found on the property. The Trust’s mandate grew over the years, and today Flower Valley promotes the sustainable harvesting of fynbos across the broader Cape Floral Kingdom. However, the farm remains the showcase for good land management and fynbos care.
In order to continue to protect the many rare fynbos species found here – including the Aloe juddii (a specie found nowhere else in the world), and the many animals and birds dependent on fynbos (including our resident Flower Valley Cape Leopard), the Trust is now raising R200,000 to protect the farm in 2015. The Trust is offering those who have adopted, the opportunity to visit their hectare, and have their name immortalised on Flower Valley Farm.
To the many Flower Valley Friends and Partners who have adopted one hectare or more – from the entire Flower Valley team, our thanks to you! We look forward to hosting you on Flower Valley Farm when you have the opportunity to visit us.
The Western Cape natural capital costs society around R4.5-billion a year. Most of the costs are due to the impact of invasive alien species on water resources, and the impact of the fisheries industry. (more…)