Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 1035–1052 | Cite as

Mountains as a critical source of ecosystem services: the case of the Drakensberg, South Africa

  • S. J. NgwenyaEmail author
  • E. Torquebiau
  • J. W. H. Ferguson


Mountain natural resource use and consequent ecosystem services for three diverse rural communities around the Mariepskop Mountain in the Mpumalanga Drakensberg, South Africa, were studied using interview and focus group discussions. The mountain provides a diverse range of critical ecosystem services to surrounding rural communities up to distances further than 20 km. Of the low-income village-level households, 90% continuously depended on firewood and water. Commercial farmers valued mountain water and indigenous insect pollinators. For more affluent village inhabitants, the aesthetic and historic values of the mountain are paramount. The ecosystem services identified by these three communities differed strongly with different community-specific ecosystem services. Ecosystem services identified by these communities were primarily influenced by household distance from the mountain and socio-economic status, with resource use decreasing with distance for most mountain resources with the exception of water. The importance of this mountain to livelihoods whilst ensuring resilience requires governance that takes into account socio-economic-based diversity in the use of ecosystem services and spatial diversity of natural resources utilization.


Natural resources Ecosystem services Socio-economic characteristics Rural livelihoods Mountains 



We wish to thank the National Research Foundation (NRF) who funded this work and Geldenhuys Sawmill, together with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), for providing facilities during the study. We also thank the Sethlare Tribal Council for the wise counsel and guidance.


Funding was provided by National Research Foundation South Africa (Grant No. N0006077318).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. J. Ngwenya
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. Torquebiau
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. W. H. Ferguson
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Environmental StudiesUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.CIRAD, UR36MontpellierFrance

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