Population assessments of priority plant species used by local communities in and around three Wild Coast reserves, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Fearon, Joclyn Joe
Grahamstown, Rhodes University, Environmental Sciences
Publication Year: 
The project was initiated by Eastern Cape Parks (ECP) as a request for the construction of inventories of priority species and their population levels inside three nature reserves on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, South Africa, and to develop a strategic management plan to manage these natural resources in each reserve. Thirty key species were identified by local communities in and around Dwesa-Cwebe, Silaka and Mkambati Nature Reserves through community workshops. For forested areas belt transects of 100 m x 6 m where used. The basal circumference of key tree species within the belt transect was measured as well as the height of saplings (height : 150 m). Tree species were categorized based on densities, size class distribution (SCD) curves and values, and spatial grain. For grassland areas straight transects of 200 m long were used, along which ten 3 m x 3 m quadrates were placed at 20 m intervals. Within each grassland transect the height of herbs or tuft diameter of grasses was recorded and percentage cover estimated. Grassland species were categorized based on density, SCD curves and percentage cover. All species were placed into harvesting categories based on analysed ecological data that was collected in the field. Category 1 species were very rare or not found in the reserve and it was recommended that species be conserved and monitored. Category 2 species had low densities in the reserve indicating declining populations and was suggested that these be monitored and not harvested. Category 3 species had high densities and have potential for harvesting with strict limitations. Category 4 species were most abundant with very high densities and can be harvested within management guidelines. These categories were grouped further using social and ecological data such as harvesting risk, frequency of collection, use value and number of uses. This highlighted which species have conservation priority within each category and a decision can be made as to how intense or limited extraction should be. By incorporating GIS the distribution of each species was looked at and harvesting and non-harvesting zones established to determine where species can be extracted. Monitoring plans must consider the quantity of plant material collected, fire regimes, optimal harvesting rates and harvesting zones, and be able to pick up changes in populations. Also, it is important that the community be involved in conserving and monitoring these species. Adaptive monitoring and management must be used to steer harvesting practices in the Wild Coast reserves. This allows for the development of harvesting practices through 'learning by doing', and the evolution of good questions to guide monitoring decisions.
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Working Paper
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.