CAPE promotes ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change through integrated catchment management. Managing river catchments or watersheds effectively is essential for protecting biodiversity and securing ecosystem services from these catchments, and in turn maximising the amount of water available for human use. CAPE partners collaborate to guarantee the continued flow of clean water, through maintaining natural ecosystems in a healthy condition, to remove alien vegetation, to rehabilitate wetlands, to conserve soil resources, to control the spread of fires and to keep rivers and estuaries in a healthy state, following a “catchment to coast” philosophy.
This has become important in the face of anticipated climate change as temperatures in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) increase and rainfall patterns change – with more intense rainfall events and longer dry spells. Effective management of natural habitat in rural and urban areas needs to be combined with restoring degraded areas to help buffer against climate change and to maximise carbon, water and social benefits.
Protecting Freshwater Resources
Wetlands in the CFR provide critical ecosystem services like water purification, slowing down floods and ensuring steady water flow. Although there is no specific donor-funded component of the CAPE programme on managing wetlands, this is a key element of biodiversity management. The CAPE programme works closely with DEA’s Working for Wetlands Programme to ensure effective management of priority estuaries in the CFR.
A key investment in the CFR has focused on improving the management of estuaries by developing estuary management plans and the capacity to implement them. Estuaries comprise a key component of coastal and marine ecosystems as spawning grounds, contributing significantly to overall fisheries production. The national total landed catch of estuarine and estuarine-associated fish is approximately 28 000 tonnes per annum, with a value of about R950 million. The most severe direct pressures on estuaries are reductions in freshwater input (quantity) and water quality, habitat alteration, changing mouth dynamics, over-exploitation of resources (for example, fish), sedimentation, recreational disturbance and pollution. Estuaries around intensively developed areas in the CFR – the Western Cape southwest coast and Nelson Mandela Bay areas – are in the poorest condition.
- Water Institute of Southern Africa
- Framework Programme for Research Education and Training in Water
- Department of Water and Sanitation
It is now a widely accepted fact that human activity has caused rapid climate change on Earth over the past century. Although fossil and other records show significant climate variations over billions of years, scientists believe the rate of change in the last 100 years is unprecedented. Climate change is likely to have a significant impact on the fynbos biome.
There are currently a number of regional, provincial and national responses to the threats posed by climate change:
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning has developed a suite of key climate change documents. View key climate change documents produced by the department.
Fire is the major change element within the fynbos biome, providing opportunities for plants to regenerate, produce offspring and then die back in anticipation of the next fire. Biodiversity, and virtually all biophysical processes, are dependent on fire – particularly in the Mountain Catchment Areas.
Particular fynbos communities need fire every 10-30 years to kill off domineering invaders and senescent (aging) natives, with seeds of some species germinating only after the intense heat of a fire. One of the investments in CFR has been in the development of a fire management database for CapeNature’s reserves. The project has investigated the intervals between fires and how these have influenced the diverse fire-prone regions, recording and understanding the fire history of the fynbos biome so that informed decisions can be taken on fire management to meet conservation objectives.
Invasive Alien Species
Invasive alien species have detrimental impacts on natural capital, they compromise ecosystem stability and threaten economic productivity.
Growing international trade has accelerated the intentional and unintentional introduction of invasive alien species around the globe. Effective invasive alien species management is an essential and integral part of the sustainable management of biodiversity in the CFR.
Through CAPE a strategy for invasive alien species management in the Cape Floristic Region has been developed, setting a framework for a strategic and collaborative approach involving all relevant stakeholders and role-players to ensure more effective implementation, reducing duplication, and focusing effort and resources on agreed priorities for the region.
Marine Protected Areas
South Africa has a spectacular 3 000 km coastline and ocean that delivers an array of ecosystem services, amounting to some R180 billion per annum.
These are under threat, however, from over-fishing, poaching, pollution, inappropriate development and resource-user conflicts. The Cape Floristic Region has 11 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along its coastline which assist in protecting coastal ecosystems, but these need to be more effectively managed.
CAPE works toward conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity and resources while providing sustainable socio-economic benefits to coastal communities. The focus of this work has been with SANParks, CapeNature and coastal municipalities to support the effective management of MPAs in two focal areas – the Garden Route and Kogelberg, which have high value biodiversity underpinning thriving tourism industries. An economic evaluation of the Garden Route MPAs (Tsitsikamma, Robberg and Goukamma) estimated their total economic value at R421 million per annum.
Priority Actions for 2011 – 2020:
- Support Catchment Management Agencies to incorporate freshwater ecosystem priority areas in catchment management resource protection strategies. Promote the protection of freshwater ecosystem priority areas and priority estuaries in the water resource classification system and process.
- Implement the CFR alien invasive species (AIS) strategy, and systematically reduce the rate and extent of AIS invasion in the CFR.
- Secure and optimise the use of Expanded Public Works Programme resources for rehabilitation and restoration of critical biodiversity areas and ecological support areas in the CFR. Identify and implement co-ordinated strategies for improved fire management in the CFR, particularly the establishment of Fire Protection Associations, and strengthen integrated fire and AIS management.
- Pilot ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change in municipalities, and illustrate how climate change resilience, ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation are interconnected.