Assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of rangeland restoration in Namaqualand, South Africa

Abstract

South Africa’s Succulent Karoo is home to unmatched numbers of dryland plant species. Unfortunately, decades of overstocking these rangelands with small livestock and historical ploughing for fodder have led to extensive degradation. Some areas are severely degraded, negatively affecting both agricultural livestock productivity and ecosystem health. Land degradation reduces land use options and leaves land users, and the ecosystems on which they depend, more vulnerable to environmental and economic stressors. Ecological restoration is promoted as an effective and cost-efficient option for building the resilience of local and regional ecosystems. However, dryland restoration confronts many environmental challenges that have limited its success to date. Here, we present the results of a local-scale participatory restoration trial and an assessment of the costs of regional-scale ecological restoration in the Nama Khoi area in Namaqualand, South Africa. In combination, these analyses are useful for identifying opportunities and barriers for the improved efficiency and effectiveness of dryland restoration. In Namaqualand, we find that ecological restoration is difficult and expensive. The expected impacts of climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. However, we argue that a holistic suite of land management actions that include sound management, the prevention of further degradation, and prudent investments in restoration even where costs are high is likely to be the only real option for sustaining land-based livelihoods in this region over the longer term.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Data provided by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

  2. 2.

    Data provided by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

  3. 3.

    For the current study, this was taken as US$2.57 per kg mutton, as reported by the Red Meat Producers Organisation ABSA Weekly prices for 22 May 2015. http://www.rpo.co.za/InformationCentre/ABSA/WeeklyPrices.aspx. Accessed 29 May 2015.

  4. 4.

    Accessed online at https://www.rotary.org/en/document/7321 in May 2015.

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Acknowledgments

This research was undertaken as part of the International Climate Initiative. All work undertaken was funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, which supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. The authors thank Nkosinathi Nama for invaluable field support, as well as the farmers of Steinkopf iKosis Ward and the municipal officials of the Nama Khoi Local Municipality for their time, information, and access to land. We thank Dr. Nalini Rao for her early work on the economic analysis, Dr. Heidi Hawkins and Dr. Peter Carrick for their input into the restoration trial study design and analysis, Dr. Todd Erickson for his assistance with the data presentation, our many partner organisations for access to their records, and two anonymous reviewers for their very constructive feedback which has contributed to a greatly improved manuscript. The guest editorial team for this special issue also provided very valuable feedback and guidance.

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Correspondence to Amanda Bourne.

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Communicated by Dr. Olga Kildisheva, Dr. Lauren Svejcar and Dr. Erik Hamerlynck.

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Bourne, A., Muller, H., de Villiers, A. et al. Assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of rangeland restoration in Namaqualand, South Africa. Plant Ecol 218, 7–22 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-016-0644-3

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Keywords

  • Ecological restoration
  • Dryland ecosystems
  • Economic analysis
  • Degradation
  • Rangelands