Our Blog: Plants and other Stories
Help bring back biodiversity
JAN 13, 2021 | Written and photographed by Zoë Chapman Poulsen.
Above: Preparing for restoration – the team sets out seedlings and cuttings to be planted on the shore at Princess Vlei, Cape Town.
It is time to restore and renew! And there is a special boost for plant lovers this New Year – the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration is beginning.
It will run from 2021 to 2030. It aims to build a global movement that raises awareness of and drives action to restore the world’s ecosystems and bring back the biodiversity that we lose day by day.
Ecological restoration involves creating circumstances that enable a degraded, damaged or even destroyed ecosystem recover. Achieving this is a cooperative effort, explains the Society for Ecological Restoration. Different groups of volunteers and ecology professionals pool their skills and energies – to clear alien invasive plants, reintroduce locally extinct species, re-establish natural ecological systems or enable many other different restorative processes.
Above: Fay Howa (City of Cape Town) and Alex Lansdowne (Lansdowne Environmental Services) mark out restoration transects on Rondebosch Common.
Loss of habitat for nature and species extinction are both accelerating at a rate never seen before. The climate crisis and the need to feed and house the world’s growing human population are putting immense pressure on intact ecosystems and biodiversity.
Two in every five of the world’s plants are in danger of becoming extinct, says the benchmark 2020 State of the World’s Plants and Fungi Report, compiled at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London. Concern is also high about the effect on species that depend on each other within ecosystems.
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are considered endangered. Insect species are becoming extinct at a rate eight times faster than mammals, birds and reptiles. Without them, ecosystems will collapse.
That is why ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation go hand in hand. There is a danger of not linking restoration programmes directly to local ecosystem protection as well as recognising the role of local ecosystems as a primary source of material for restoration efforts. Cooperating to conserve our remaining ecosystems is a vital contribution that we can all join together to achieve.
Above: Volunteers from the Princess Vlei Forum and the Botanical Society’s Kirstenbosch Branch plant at the Princess Vlei restoration site.
South Africa is one of the world’s megadiverse countries with three biodiversity hotspots. Our country has many different ecosystems, from mountain grassland and forest to lowland fynbos.
Urban development, agriculture and other factors significantly reduce the size of these precious ecosystems and drive habitat degradation and loss. Ecological restoration can bring back biodiversity in both rural and urban areas.
Partnerships are an important key to restoration success because different stakeholders bring their own insights and skills to the table. Neighbourhood groups, for instance, can contribute by suggesting areas for restoration, then acting as the ‘supporters’ of a restoration project when it is underway and driving ongoing local involvement across and within communities.
Above: Councillor Kevin Southgate volunteers at the Princess Vlei restoration site in Cape Town, planting a cutting of Erica verticillata, which is extinct in the wild.
The Princess Vlei restoration project in Cape Town is a key example of successful partnering for ecological restoration. The Princess Vlei Forum partners with the Botanical Society’s Kirstenbosch branch, with other partners and funders including the Society for Ecological Restoration, the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, the Rowland and Leta Hill Trust and the American Orchid Society.
Phase 1 of the project aims to restore 12ha of habitat, including critically endangered Cape Flats sand fynbos and Cape Flats dune strandveld. Read more about the project here.
As the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration unfolds, the Botanical Society will continue to support our branches and other partners in this vital conservation and restoration work. Over the past year, the Botanical Society has established and strengthened its own conservation partnerships with an array of role players.
Above: Cuttings of the whorled heath (Erica verticillata) have been nurtured so that Solly Modimola and other Kirstenbosch horticulturalists volunteered to help plant them on Rondebosch Common.
At the Botanical Society, we shall continue offering strategic support, mobilising members and driving fundraising to make possible more projects that support biodiversity protection AND restoration. Never has it been more important for BotSoc members and all plant lovers to join with us in taking action.
If you would like to help us take action to bring back biodiversity, consider becoming a member of the Botanical Society or making a donation to support our work.
Look out for Ecosystem Restoration as one of the topics in our upcoming webinar series, featuring key topics from the South African plant conservation arena.
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