Know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa's indigenous plants
Our Conservation Work
BotSoc champions biodiversity conservation in South Africa to protect our indigenous plant diversity and ecosystems.
The Botanical Society currently funds botanist Isabel Johnson (based in Pietermaritzburg) to provide specialist botanical support for the identification, botanical assessment, formal protection and post-declaration requirements of stewardship sites of conservation priorities in the summer-rainfall region as an output of BotSoc’s Conservation Programme.
This also involves working closely with the NGO partners such as BirdLife South Africa and Conservation Outcomes and the provincial conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to establish stewardship agreements with private landowners. Additionally, the KZN inland branch of the Botanical Society and local CREW groups assist with eyes in the field.
What is stewardship?
In its broadest sense, environmental stewardship is defined as the responsible use and protection of the natural environment.
In the South African biodiversity conservation context, the concept of biodiversity stewardship has a more specific focus and meaning. According to our partners at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, biodiversity stewardship is defined as “…an approach to securing land in biodiversity priority areas through entering into agreements with private and communal landowners, led by conservation authorities.”
Through the BotSoc Conservation Programme, we look to expand our biodiversity reach through stewardship on sites that meet multiple national plant conservation priorities, including threatened species and under-conserved and threatened habitats.
Through our support, the conservation fraternity grows existing protected areas, for example the Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve expansion, or we select sites that have been identified as priority for long-term protection, such as the Hlomo Hlomo Nature Reserve. – which was formally declared and gazetted in December 2021.
Once these sites have been identified, preliminary site assessments are undertaken after interaction with the landowners or custodians. They’re reviewed in conjunction with the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Working Group, which includes representatives from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Conservation Outcomes, Birdlife South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, WWF South Africa and BotSoc. And a panel of experts, including our BotSoc botanical expert, then carries out site inspections and assessments to objectively capture the value of the potential site.
As part of the BotSoc Stewardship Programme, we work in close partnership with the KZN National Botanical Garden in Pietermaritzburg. We have worked extensively with and offered mentorship to the plant horticulturalists at the botanical garden. This has allowed BotSoc to accompany SANBI staff infield for the collection of propagation material for threatened plant species, as well as collecting seed for the Millennium Seedbank project.
This collected plant material is also used for propagation trials, and to build up ex-situ collections of threatened species to build backup living collections at the gardens and for future ecological restoration work at stewardship sites.
Once a stewardship site has been designated as a formally protected area, the BotSoc Stewardship Programme continues to play a supporting role in their management. In fact, post-declaration support is often the most important step, as it monitors and guides the custodians of the declared stewardship sites on how best to manage their land to protect its biodiversity. This includes regular interactions with the landowners and managers, to implement and meet the annual plan of operations for the site.
For example, at the Bosch Berg Nature Reserve, we assist with monitoring problem plant control trials. And we hold annual reviews of our stewardship sites, to see which management actions worked, and how we can do things better. In the past year, these were held for Bosch Berg, Red Desert and Ingwehumbe. We also monitor the vegetation condition, threatened plants and plant diversity at all the sites to ensure any activities such as livestock grazing and fire management aren’t negatively impacting the site.
Sites for future declaration
- Lake Merthley has been identified as a future stewardship site, given its critically important botanical value. We continue to work with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to support this process.
- The Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve expansion will increase the conservation footprint of suitable sites adjoining the Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve in the Gwahumbe Valley. Negotiations with landowners here are underway.
Raising awareness about biodiversity conservation
The BotSoc Stewardship Programme also plays a significant role in raising awareness about biodiversity conservation and stewardship in the area’s spectacular and fascinating grassland ecosystems. This has also included building capacity among conservation partners.
This key component of the programme has included publishing articles about the stewardship programme on the Botanical Society blog and other popular publications. And where it is possible, we arrange for our BotSoc members to visit select sites, such as the Ingwehumbe NR, where members of both the BotSoc Inland and Coastal KZN branches attended our spring walk.
The stewardship programme is represented in strategic spaces and draws attention to conservation work, including the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship working group, the Botanical Society’s conservation committee and BotSoc’s popular conservation webinar series.
We look forward to growing this programme further to expand our conservation footprint in the unique and highly biodiverse grassland ecosystems of the summer rainfall region, to ensure long term sustainability of key habitats, species and ecological function.
Help us secure more land with high biodiversity value outside of formally protected areas – by supporting our conservation stewardship programme.
Succulent plant crisis
Ex-situ plant collections
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