Riparian restoration in fynbos catchments

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Karen Esler

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Invasive alien plant species are a primary cause of ecosystem degradation in semi-arid South Africa, and their control and management is a legislated priority in the country. Here, ecological restoration has developed as a complementary research stream to invasion biology, primarily because strategic water providing catchment areas that also conserve the country’s rich biodiversity are faced with an escalating threat posed by alien plant invasions. Restoration interventions, through direct removal of alien trees, increase water flows, improve groundwater infiltration and water quality, and reduce disaster risk. Much restoration work has therefore occurred in riparian zones, where there has been the overriding assumption of post-clearing passive recovery of the system (i.e. self-repair). Positive biodiversity outcomes are assumed, but not always evident. Frameworks for restoration of these dynamic and linearly connected systems require an understanding of biogeographical processes at different spatial sales and the relationship between the invasion process (and species), resilience, and ecosystem function. Due to legacy effects, management interventions themselves may influence restoration outcomes, and where biotic or abiotic thresholds have been passed, interventions may require also require active restoration. We present an overview and synthesis of recent research in this regard.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration