SA gets new biosphere reserve

Posted by Laura Grant on May 30, 2009
Posted in Conservation

Unspoilt bush stretches to the horizon in the Vhembe area of South Africa's Limpopo province. Picture from www.golimpopo.com

Unspoilt bush stretches to the horizon in the Vhembe area of South Africa's Limpopo province. Picture courtesy www.golimpopo.com

The Vhembe region of Limpopo province became South Africa’s sixth biosphere reserve this week, when Unesco announced the addition of 22 new sites to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

These sites, part of Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, are used to experiment with and learn about conservation and sustainable development. In other words, they are “living laboratories” in finding ways to improve people’s relationship with their environment and to reconcile economic development with the conservation of biodiversity.

A golden rhinocerous found at an archeological dig in the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site

A golden rhinocerous found at an archaeological dig in the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site. Pic from www.golimpopo.com

Vhembe is in north-eastern Limpopo, a region of bushveld dotted with iconic baobab trees and abundant animal and bird life. It also has a rich cultural history that dates back to the San and includes the ancient African kingdoms of Mapungubwe and Thulamela.

The new biosphere reserve includes the northern part of the Kruger National Park, the Makuleke Wetlands Ramsar Site, which lies mostly in the Kruger Park, the Soutpansberg and Blouberg biodiversity hotspots, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site – an area of mystery and legend which contains the remnants of an ancient African civilisation – and the Makgabeng Plateau, which has more than 1,000 rock art sites.

The main economic activities in the biosphere reserve are agriculture, including subtropical fruit and vegetable farming, cattle and game farming and hunting.

Biosphere reserves share their experience and ideas nationally, regionally and internationally within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. There are 531 sites worldwide in 105 countries.

BIOSPHERE RESERVES IN SOUTH AFRICA
Vhembe joins five other biosphere reserves in South Africa. The first, Kogelberg in the Western Cape, was declared in 1998, followed by the Cape West Coast reserve in 2000, the Waterberg reserve and the Kruger to Canyons reserve in 2001, and the Cape Winelands in 2007.

Steenbras river in the Kogelberg biosphere reserve, Western Cape. Pic by Coda (http://www.flickr.com/photos/coda). Creative Commons

Steenbras river in the Kogelberg biosphere reserve. Pic by Coda (www.flickr.com/photos/coda). Licenced under Creative Commons

KOGELBERG
This 100,000-hectare reserve extends from around Gordon’s Bay (about an hour from Cape Town up the east coast) to the Bot River (map) and extends inland to include the Elgin basin and the town of Grabouw. It is at the heart of the Cape floral kingdom and is home to about 1,800 plant species, 77 of which occur nowhere else on Earth. The biosphere includes about 25,000 hectares of marine environment. The main economic activities in the area include apple farming, commercial plantations of pines, and tourism.

A colony of gannets at Lambert's Bay in the Cape West Coast biosphere reserve. Pic www.sanparks.org.za

A colony of gannets at Lambert's Bay in the Cape West Coast biosphere reserve. Pic www.sanparks.co.za

CAPE WEST COAST
The biosphere stretches northwards from the Cape Town suburb of Diep River up the west coast to the Berg River, covering 380,000 hectares of coastal lowland plains that are part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Langebaan lagoon, a Ramsar site, and Dassen Island, a pelican breeding site and African penguin colony, are part of the reserve. Interestingly, it claims to be the only biosphere that has a nuclear power station, an oil refinery and a toxic dump site. The main economic activities are agriculture and fishing.

The Waterberg area is the origin of four of Limpopo province's main rivers and is home to 125 mammal and 300 bird species. Pic courtesy www.golimpopo.com

The Waterberg biosphere reserve. Pic from www.golimpopo.com

WATERBERG
The Waterberg savannah biosphere reserve is an area of about 400,000 hectares in Limpopo province, about 2 hours north of Johannesburg. The area forms a wide basin in which the four main rivers of the province originate. It is home to 125 mammal, 300 bird and a number of endemic or Red Data butterfly, fish and reptile species. The area is said to be one of the most important San rock art areas in South Africa. Tourism is the major source of income. People also farm cattle and grow crops, but are many are switching to game farming for ecotourism.

Cape winelands. Pic by Deon Maritz (www.flickr.com/photos/deonmaritz) under Creative Commons licence

Cape winelands. Pic by Deon Maritz (www.flickr.com/photos/deonmaritz). Creative Commons Attribution 2.0


CAPE WINELANDS

The Winelands biosphere reserve extends northwards from the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and includes the historic towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, in the Cape’s internationally famous wine-growing region. It protects areas of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The main economic activities include agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and forestry.

Giraffe in Kruger National Park. Pic from www.golimpopo.com

Giraffe in Kruger National Park. Pic from www.golimpopo.com

KRUGER TO CANYONS
This reserve covers nearly 2.5-million hectares and encompasses the Kruger National Park and the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Three of the Southern African biomes occur in the reserve: grasslands, Afro-montane forests, and savanna. Alongside the extensive tracts of conservation areas there are large, rural developing communities living on tribal land. Economic activities include mining for gold, phosphate and copper, forestry and fruits and vegetable farming.

Read more about biosphere reserves here.

Comments

One Response to “SA gets new biosphere reserve”

  1. Janine Scorer
    June 6th, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

    What a wonderful country we live in “6 Biosphere’s” which other country comes close ?

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