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Cape Town, South Africa

O'Farrell P.J.,Natural Environment Research Council | Anderson P.M.L.,University of Cape Town | Le Maitre D.C.,Natural Resource and the Environment | Holmes P.M.,Biodiversity Management Branch
Ecology and Society | Year: 2012

Regional and global scale ecosystem service assessments have demonstrated the socioeconomic value of protecting biodiversity and have been integrated into associated policy. Local government decision makers are still unsure of the applicability, return on investment, and usefulness of these assessments in aiding their decision making. Cape Town, a developing city in a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot, has numerous competing land uses. City managers, with a tightly constrained budget, requested an exploratory study on the links between ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation within this municipal area. We set out to develop and test a simple and rapid ecosystem service assessment method aimed at determining the contribution natural vegetation remnants make to ecosystem service provision. We took selected services, identified in conjunction with city managers, and assessed these in two ways. First we used an area weighted approach to attribute services to vegetation types and assessed how these had changed through time and into the future given development needs. Second, we did a regulatory and cultural service remnant distance analysis to better understand proximity effects and linkages. Provisioning services were found to have been most severely affected through vegetation transformation. Regulatory services have been similarly affected, and these losses are more significant because regulatory services can only function in situ and cannot be outsourced in the way provisioning services can. The most significant losses were in coastal zone protection and flood mitigation services, both of which will be placed under even greater pressure given the predicted changes in climatic regimes. The role of remnant vegetation in regulating and cultural services was shown to be a significant additional consideration in making the case for conservation in the city. Our rapid assessment approach does not allow for nuanced and individual understanding of the trade-offs presented by individual remnant patches, but is particularly strong in quickly identifying issues, key focus areas, and opportunities provided by this research direction, and thereby serving to facilitate and drive constructive engagement between ecosystem service experts and city planners. © 2012 by the author(s).

Rebelo A.G.,South African National Biodiversity Institute | Holmes P.M.,Biodiversity Management Branch | Dorse C.,Biodiversity Management Branch | Wood J.,Biodiversity Management Branch
South African Journal of Botany | Year: 2011

The City of Cape Town (City) covers 2460km 2 in the southwestern corner of the Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot. Established in 1654, by 1700 there were no animals larger than 50kg within 200km of the City. However, apart from an appreciation that timber and firewood were becoming scarce, it was only in the 1930s that the first farm near Cape Point was set aside for conservation. Table Mountain was declared a National Monument in 1958, while it was largely covered by pine and gum plantations. Conservation of the montane areas thereafter expanded, whereas the lowlands were largely ignored, except for a few bird sanctuaries. Only in 1982 was the plight of the lowlands highlighted. Although ad hoc conservation planning was undertaken subsequently, 1997 saw the first priority categorization and conservation plan. The current situation is perilous: a huge effort will be required to meet basic conservation targets for the lowland vegetation types and threatened species. Local and international partners and funders will be key to achieving this. In eight of the City's 19 national vegetation types the minimum conservation targets are not achievable. Of the 3250 plant species estimated to occur in the City, 13 are extinct and 319 are threatened according to the IUCN Red List: this is 18% of the threatened Red List species in South Africa. Now for the first time, implementation is being attempted holistically across the metropole with discussion between internal City and external stakeholders to implement the conservation plan. However, the interim plans towards achieving this - that 60% of the unproclaimed target is secured by 2014, requires that over 40km 2 be conserved per annum. This leaves 340km 2 that should be secured by 2020 when projections from City spatial growth indicate that the last critical remnants will be urbanized. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Holmes P.M.,Biodiversity Management Branch | Rebelo A.G.,South African National Biodiversity Institute | Dorse C.,Biodiversity Management Branch | Wood J.,Biodiversity Management Branch
Ecology and Society | Year: 2012

Cape Town is an urban hotspot within the Cape Floristic Region global biodiversity hotspot. This city of 2,460 km 2 encompasses four local centers of fynbos plant endemism, 19 national terrestrial vegetation types (six endemic to the city), wetland and coastal ecosystems, and 190 endemic plant species. Biodiversity in the lowlands is under threat of extinction as a result of habitat loss to agriculture, urban development, mining, and degradation by invasive alien plants. Cape Town's population is 3.7 million, increasing by an estimated 55,000 people/yr, which puts pressure on biodiversity remnants for development. South Africa is a signatory to international instruments to reduce biodiversity loss and has a good legislative and policy framework to conserve biodiversity, yet implementation actions are slow, with limited national and provincial support to conserve Cape Town's unique and irreplaceable biodiversity. The lack-of-action problem is two-fold: national government is slow to implement the policies developed to realize the international instruments it has signed, with conservation initiatives inadequately funded; and local governments are not yet recognized as important implementation partners. A further problem is created by conflicting policies such as the national housing policy that contributes to urban sprawl and loss of critical biodiversity areas. The City's Biodiversity Management Branch, with partners, is making some headway at implementation, but stronger political commitment is needed at all levels of government. Our objective is to improve the status and management of biodiversity in existing conservation areas through the statutory proclamation process and management effectiveness monitoring, respectively, and to secure priority areas of the BioNet, Cape Town's systematic biodiversity plan. The most important tools for the latter are incorporating the BioNet plan into City spatial plans; communication, education, and public awareness; negotiating appropriate management of public land; and conservation stewardship on private land. The timeframe to save Cape Town's biodiversity is short, and it is unlikely that full success will be achieved without national or international funding and political will at all levels of government. © 2012 by the author(s).

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