Using long-term ecological data to establish benchmarks for restoration in South African drylands

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Hana Peterson

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The Succulent Karoo biome forms part of one of the most arid regions of South Africa and is recognised by the IUCN as a biodiversity hotspot. Historical landscape photographs from this biome illustrate the condition of the landscape a century ago and are an under-utilised source of ecological data in an otherwise data-deficient geographic region. Taking contemporary repeats of historical photographs provides a valuable means of comparison between the past and present condition of the landscape. The observed changes in various land cover classes from several sites in the Tanqua Karoo (Northern Cape) are attributed to major changes in land-use, notably a decrease in livestock as a consequence of de-agrarianisation and a shift to a more conservation-oriented function of privately-owned farms. Long-term ecological research emanating from Tierberg-LTER in Prince Albert (Western Cape) with over 30 years of climatic and ecological data demonstrates the utility of routine monitoring and resampling of fixed plots over successive years in providing insight into the influence of different livestock stocking rates, changing climatic conditions, and extreme weather events such as drought. These examples highlight the usefulness of various sources of long-term ecological data in establishing benchmarks for restoration and rehabilitation in the economically and ecologically important Karoo region of South Africa.

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Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration