Environmental Management

, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 792–806 | Cite as

Planning for the Maintenance of Floristic Diversity in the Face of Land Cover and Climate Change

  • Debbie JewittEmail author
  • Peter S. Goodman
  • Barend F. N. Erasmus
  • Timothy G. O’Connor
  • Ed T. F. Witkowski


Habitat loss and climate change are primary drivers of global biodiversity loss. Species will need to track changing environmental conditions through fragmented and transformed landscapes such as KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Landscape connectivity is an important tool for maintaining resilience to global change. We develop a coarse-grained connectivity map between protected areas to aid decision-making for implementing corridors to maintain floristic diversity in the face of global change. The spatial location of corridors was prioritised using a biological underpinning of floristic composition that incorporated high beta diversity regions, important plant areas, climate refugia, and aligned to major climatic gradients driving floristic pattern. We used Linkage Mapper to develop the connectivity network. The resistance layer was based on land-cover categories with natural areas discounted according to their contribution towards meeting the biological objectives. Three corridor maps were developed; a conservative option for meeting minimum corridor requirements, an optimal option for meeting a target amount of 50% of the landscape and an option including linkages in highly transformed areas. The importance of various protected areas and critical linkages in maintaining landscape connectivity are discussed, disconnected protected areas and pinch points identified where the loss of small areas could compromise landscape connectivity. This framework is suggested as a way to conserve floristic diversity into the future and is recommended as an approach for other global connectivity initiatives. A lack of implementation of corridors will lead to further habitat loss and fragmentation, resulting in further risk to plant diversity.


Beta diversity Climate refugia Corridors Ecological processes Gradients Protected areas 



DJ is supported by grant B8749.R01 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. The South African Environmental Observation Network is thanked for the generous support of a study bursary. BFNE is supported by the Exxaro Company of South Africa. The following people are thanked for their assistance with this project, specifically for the conservation plan data: R. Scott-Shaw developed the plant species distribution models and species targets, B. Naidoo assisted with preparing the data for the systematic conservation plan, H. Snyman and B. Escott developed the planning unit layer, H. Snyman prepared the protected area and stewardship layers, and assisted with verifying the corridors. A. Gomez assisted with data extraction and preparation. T. Khomo, I. Mlonyeni, S. Manqele, A. Mnikathi and M. Sosibo assisted with cleaning the historical field’s layer. The botanists and ecologists who contributed plant data to the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife database over many years are thanked for their contributions, without which a project such as this could never have been undertaken.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Human of Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors

Informed consent

This research did not involve human participants

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Debbie Jewitt
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Peter S. Goodman
    • 2
  • Barend F. N. Erasmus
    • 3
  • Timothy G. O’Connor
    • 2
    • 4
  • Ed T. F. Witkowski
    • 2
  1. 1.Biodiversity Research and AssessmentEzemvelo KZN WildlifeCascadesSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.Global Change and Sustainability Research InstituteUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  4. 4.South African Environmental Observation NetworkPretoriaSouth Africa

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