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-proclamation requirements of stewardship sites of conservation concern 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. Once these sites have been identified, preliminary site assessments are undertaken after interaction with the landowners or custodians.
Our Stewardship Programme also encompasses botanical diversity monitoring and grassland condition assessments both at existing stewardship protected areas as well as proposed stewardship areas, as many of the sites chosen are also used for sustainable grazing.
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.
The BotSoc Stewardship Programme
Once a stewardship site has been designated as a formally protected area, the the BotSoc Stewardship Programme continues to play a supporting role in their management. For example, at the Bosch Berg Nature Reserve, we assist with monitoring problem plant control trials. We celebrated the launch of the newly proclaimed Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve, with the event allowing us to build on and forge new connections with stakeholders.
The Botanical Society’s KZN branch also held the annual spring walk at Ingwehumbe NR, which was attended by members of both the Inland and Coastal KZN branches.
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.
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.
South Africa’s grasslands covers one third of the country, and are home to an extraordinary range of biodiversity. With more than twenty years of involvement in various aspects of plant conservation, Isabel Johnson is in charge of the Botanical Society’s grassland biodiversity stewardship in KwaZulu-Natal. Isabel Johnson was interviewed by Zoë Poulsen.
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