February 12, 2003
CEPF aims to promote working alliances among community groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government, academic institutions and the private sector, combining unique capacities and eliminating duplication of efforts for a comprehensive approach to conservation. CEPF is unique among funding mechanisms in that it focuses on biological areas rather than political boundaries and examines conservation threats on a corridor-wide basis to identify and support a regional, rather than a national, approach to achieving conservation outcomes.
The Succulent Karoo hotspot, which covers an area of approximately 116,000 km² in Namibia and South Africa, is an appropriate recipient of CEPF investment for several reasons. The region's levels of plant diversity and endemism rival those of rain forests, making the Succulent Karoo an extraordinary exception to the low diversity typical of arid areas and the only arid ecosystem to be recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot. Nearly one-third of the floral species of the region are unique to the hotspot and the region boasts the richest variety of succulent flora in the world (just under one-third of the Succulent Karoo's flora are succulents). In addition to its floral diversity, the hotspot is a center of diversity for reptiles and many groups of invertebrates.
The Succulent Karoo hotspot is under extreme pressure from human activities, including overgrazing, mining and illegal collection of wild plants and animals, and the impact of climate change. However, there are many opportunities for conserving the hotspot's remarkable biodiversity due to the low human population density, large areas of extant (albeit severely grazed in places) habitat, low costs of conservation in most of the region and good opportunities for biodiversity-friendly forms of land use in many areas.
The Ecosystem Profile
The ecosystem profile is intended to recommend strategic opportunities, called strategic funding directions. Civil society organizations will propose projects and actions that fit into these strategic directions and contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in the targeted region. Applicants propose specific projects consistent with these funding directions and investment criteria. The ecosystem profile does not define the specific activities that prospective implementers may propose, but outlines the conservation strategy that will guide those activities. Applicants for CEPF grants will be required to prepare detailed proposals identifying and describing the interventions and performance indicators that will be used to measure the success of the project.
Defining Biodiversity Conservation Outcomes
Biodiversity is not measured in any single unit, but rather is distributed across a hierarchical continuum of ecological scales. This continuum can be condensed into three levels: species, sites and landscapes. These three scales are admittedly arbitrary, and interlock geographically through the presence of species in sites and of sites in landscapes, but are nonetheless identifiable and discrete. Given threats to biodiversity at each of these three levels, quantitative, justifiable and repeatable targets for conservation can be set in terms of extinctions avoided, areas protected and corridors created.
Generally the conservation community has adapted the concept of corridors as a mechanism for conserving important species and sites. Existing protected areas in these crucial environments are often too small and isolated to maintain viable ecosystems and evolutionary processes; indeed, in many hotspots, even the remaining unprotected habitat fragments are acutely threatened. In such circumstances, conservation efforts must focus on linking major sites across wide geographic areas in order to sustain these large-scale processes and ensure the maintenance of a high level of biodiversity. Such networks of protected areas and landscape management systems are biodiversity corridors.
SKEP, which means "to serve" or "to create" in Afrikaans (the predominant language in the hotspot), involved more than 60 scientific experts and over 400 local stakeholders representing government, academia, NGOs, private sector interests and local communities. SKEP pioneered a unique approach to conservation planning that integrated high-level scientific expertise with socio-political, economic and institutional concerns. SKEP developed an overarching framework for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the hotspot from which the best niche for CEPF investment and other funding support could be determined. The CEPF profile for this hotspot is one of many SKEP products.
Summary of SKEP Priority-setting Process
Although previous scientific studies had prioritized various areas within the Succulent Karoo, biodiversity priority-setting at the hotspot level had not taken place. Information on habitat types was inconsistent between the two countries and species-level data was held in numerous formats by various organizations and individuals. The SKEP participants took on the ambitious task of gathering spatial information and expert opinion on trends in the distribution of biodiversity and important ecological processes for the hotspot. Data on the distribution of important taxa and ecological process was obtained via a workshop and numerous follow-up contacts, resulting in a comprehensive dictionary of the data and known gaps where scientific information is still needed.
Data on the distribution of important taxa and ecological process was obtained via a workshop and numerous follow-up contacts, resulting in a comprehensive dictionary of the data and known gaps where scientific information is still needed. Data on the extent of land transformation was gathered from satellite imagery and augmented by a participatory mapping workshops and meetings with local experts from agriculture, mining, tourism, conservation, communal lands and local government sectors in each of four subregions: Namibia-Gariep; Namaqualand; Hantam Tanqua Roggeveld; and Southern Karoo. SKEP results can be found in reports available on the CEPF Web site, www.cepf.net, and in the form of GIS files and associated databases for each main land use.
With this new understanding of the distribution of biodiversity and transformation pressures in the hotspot, SKEP's team of scientists determined what would be needed in terms of area to ensure that the region's species and the ecological processes that support them are conserved and then set conservation targets for biodiversity features such as vegetation types, river ecosystems, sand movement corridors and the presence of Red Data and endemic species based on this assessment.
Using a GIS-based computer program that uses an iterative algorithm to show maps of options for achieving these targets, a SKEP Framework for Action Map was produced that highlights areas essential for achieving conservation targets as well as areas that require additional research for refining and defining finer-scale outcomes for the SKEP Program. This map was then evaluated in light of stakeholder information on land-use pressures and nine priority geographic areas were identified as the most efficient locations for achieving the conservation targets of SKEP and refined on the basis of the ability to contribute to the maintenance of Red Data List species and maintaining important ecological processes, particularly in the face of climate change.
Defining Conservation Outcomes for the Succulent Karoo
The 20-year conservation targets that have been identified thus far for the Succulent Karoo are:
After a more fine-scaled analysis, this will be formalized as conservation outcomes for the Succulent Karoo hotspot.
Biological Importance of the Succulent Karoo
Levels of protection
Despite the documented diversity of the hotspot, global and local awareness of the significance and value of the Succulent Karoo is scant. While funding to secure land has made substantial progress, lack of funding to develop and manage these resources has resulted in a situation where the parks are largely protected only on paper. Grazing, collection of wildlife for trade and mining and prospecting continue unabated in some areas.
The complex sociopolitical environment also impacts the levels of protection for biodiversity in the hotspot. Two countries, three provincial/regional governments and more than 50 local government bodies are located within the hotspot. Decentralization of many of the administrative functions of the South African and Namibian governments to the provincial (regional in Namibia) and municipal levels has led to the expansion of the role of local government in conservation and land-use issues. Building the capacity of staff in local government to integrate biodiversity concerns into their planning and regulatory practices is an important opportunity for civil society to participate in and influence long-term planning for conservation.
In addition to land-use planning, influencing land users toward long-term conservation outcomes needs to be developed at the local level. Increasing the outreach capacity of conservation agencies and piloting innovative approaches for involving civil society in protected areas is essential for expanding the overall levels of protection for biodiversity.
Synopsis of Pressures on Biodiversity in the Succulent Karoo
Current and direct pressures
Of the land use pressures summarized in Table 1, the greatest threats to biodiversity are associated with overgrazing and mining. Overgrazing is most problematic in communal areas and in the Southern Karoo where ostrich farming has seriously transformed large areas. Agriculture is restricted to a limited number of riverine habitats that collectively occupy a small area. Similarly, off-road impacts are also restricted spatially. Over-harvesting of fuel wood is a major problem in communal lands.
Agriculture: The most extensive pressure on biodiversity in the Succulent Karoo is livestock grazing. Goat, sheep, ostrich and small game ranching are the dominant land uses in approximately 90 percent of the hotspot and although stock limits and grazing plans exist for much of the hotspot, signs of overgrazing are evident over much of the landscape. This is particularly true in communal lands where motives for maintaining livestock numbers that exceed the capacity are not simply profit driven and where limited incentives and economic alternatives exist. Ostrich grazing, unlike small livestock grazing, tremendously impacts veld by selective grazing of high protein plants and seeds and compacting soil, effectively creating dust bowls.
Mining: The entire northern extension of the Succulent Karoo is mineral rich and with various mining applications pending throughout the region, transformation from mining operations represents a significant pressure. Open caste and alluvial mining activities for diamonds along the coast and river flood plains have nearly transformed the entire coastline. New markets and discoveries of base metals such as zinc and copper as well as gypsum and quartz deposits continue to transform large areas of limited habitat types. In addition to large corporations, uncontrolled prospecting by smaller companies and individuals is encroaching on the fragment patches of dune and coastal shrubland.
Other direct pressures: In addition to these indiscriminate pressures, collection of rare and commercially valuable species is a pressure as is an increase of unregulated tourism activities in many fragile ecosystems. Thus, although the increase in tourism to the region could certainly help create an opportunity for biodiversity conservation, it is currently having a negative impact on numerous species.
Table 1. Summary of Pressures on Biodiversity in the Succulent Karoo hotspot
|Agriculture||Cultivation||6% of the Southern Karoo converted for cultivation. Wine and grape farming established along all major perennial river systems with arable soils|
|Overgrazing by livestock||Extensive overgrazing throughout the hotspot, particularly on communal lands|
|Ostrich ranching||Ranching of ostrich causing irreversible soil compaction and erosion as well as local extinction of many plant species, especially dwarf succulents and bulbs|
|Mining||Alluvial and coastal diamond mining||Diamond mining by five companies has impacted most of the coastline and much of the riverine habitat in the Namaqualand and Namibian/Gariep subregions|
|Small-scale harvesting and extraction||Mining concessions, with small-scale prospecting for gemstones is one of the biggest pressures on biodiverse inselbergs in the Namaqualand and Namibian/Gariep subregions.|
|Open-pit extraction of base-metals||Base-metal vein mining near the Namibia-South Africa border coincides with areas of highest diversity for succulents and the corresponding increase in migration to these areas in search of mining jobs has negatively impacted biodiversity|
|Harvesting of plants and animals||Illegal collection by and for international collectors mainly for the pet and horticultural trade||Wildlife trade threatens numerous species. Armadillo girdled lizard (Cordylus catabractus) is one of an unknown number of these that are threatened with extinction in the wild as a result of collection for the pet trade|
|Illegal or over-harvesting of species for use by local inhabitants||Increasing population pressure having an unknown impact on several useful plant and animal species|
|Inappropriate tourism development||Expansion of 4x4 trails in sensitive environments||Uncontrolled 4x4 tourism impacts negatively on sensitive habitats and biodiversity in desert mountains and the coastal zone by compacting soil and running over succulents.|
|Lack of awareness of the existence and value of biodiversity||Inadequate sense of ownership and pride in biodiversity|
|Little or no reaction to land use pressures that result in biodiversity loss|
|Lack of knowledge about innovative ways to reduce the negative impacts on biodiversity of sectors such as mining, agriculture and land use planning|
|Lack of awareness of the market value of biodiversity, except for items such as ostriches and diamonds, that already have commercial value||Lack of desire to mainstream biodiversity into economic sectors such as mining and agriculture (e.g. biodiversity-linked marketing of diamonds, "green" branding of ostrich products)|
|Inadequate development of biodiversity-based industries such as ecotourism and wildlife farming|
|Lack of capacity to undertake conservation actions and inadequate knowledge of possible alternative interventions||Lack of capacity to undertake conservation work in protected areas|
|Lack of knowledge and capacity to catalyze and implement innovative conservation actions|
|Inability to mainstream biodiversity concerns in land-use planning|
|Lack of alternatives to unsustainable use of biodiversity||Opportunity costs of economic sectors outweigh biodiversity value in the short-term (e.g. mining, agriculture)|
|Livelihoods dependant on the unsustainable use of biodiversity (subsistence livelihoods in communal lands, commercial pastoralism)|
|Strategic Directions||Investment Priorities|
|1. Expand protected area corridors through public-private-communal partnerships in the priority areas of Bushmanland-Inselbergs, Central Namaqualand Coast, Namaqualand Uplands, Knersvlakte, Hantam-Roggeveld, Central Little Karoo and Sperrgebiet||1.1 Establish catalyst teams responsible for mobilizing local stakeholder participation; securing necessary political support; consolidating baseline information on biodiversity for long-term monitoring; developing management plans that formalize roles of each partner; and creating strategies for long-term financial sustainability|
|2. Engage key industrial sectors in meeting conservation objectives identified by SKEP||2.1 Promote best practices in the ostrich industry through pilot projects, policy recommendations and marketing options|
|2.2 Support mining forums of corporate and small-scale mining enterprises to discuss and develop mechanisms for addressing biodiversity concerns|
|2.3 Direct corporate investment into conservation projects that contribute to conservation targets and regional development objectives|
|2.4 Assist landowners in the development of ecotourism and natural resource-based enterprises that protect biodiversity|
|3. Retain and restore critical biodiversity in areas under greatest land-use pressure||3.1 Conduct a rapid assessment to map grazing impacts in all geographic priority areas|
|3.2 Develop fine-scale conservation and monitoring plans for priority areas under greatest land use pressure where the impact of biodiversity conservation will be the most significant|
|3.3 Refine the conservation targets and establish a monitoring system for the targets and outcomes|
|3.4 Investigate mechanisms, such as direct payment and others, that will enable the creation of small conservation areas in priority areas under high land use pressures|
|3.5 Synthesize research on best grazing practices and implement outreach programs based on findings|
|4. Mainstream conservation priorities into land-use planning and policy-making||4.1 Interpret conservation plans and design suitable products for municipal planners and other land-use decisionmaking agencies|
|4.2 Increase the capacity of agencies to use these products to integrate biodiversity concerns into their operations and policies|
|5. Increase awareness of the Succulent Karoo hotspot||5.1 Increase awareness of the Succulent hotspot and its unique biodiversity among local, subregional and national constituencies through a binational awareness campaign|
|5.2 Support efforts to publicize the biological importance of the Succulent Karoo hotspot|
|5.3 Support projects that educate stakeholders about threatened and unique species in the hotspot|
|6. Create the capacity to catalyze the SKEP program||6.1 Support a small network of locally based champions that will represent biodiversity concerns at a subregional level and assist with the identification, monitoring and mentoring of small-scale conservation projects|
|6.2 Establish a small grants program aimed at promoting small-scale development of biodiversity-based livelihood projects|
|6.3 Establish a coordination unit to lead implementation of the SKEP program, including providing technical assistance to launch components of the strategy, rapidly reviewing potential CEPF projects and leveraging additional resources to ensure long-term financial sustainability|