Environment Achievers National
The Cape Floristic Region (fynbos biome) stretches from the Cederberg in the north-west, around the Western Cape coast and into the Eastern Cape up to the Nelson Mandela Metropole. The biome is world famous for its astonishing diversity of plant and animal life. It is one of only six floral kingdoms in the world and with 9 600 recorded plant species, 70% of them found nowhere else on the planet. Pearl Valley falls with a region that is a globally recognised biodiversity hotspot.
Many parts of the fynbos biome are dominated by agricultural production or urban development, and it is no longer possible to set aside large, pristine areas to conserve biodiversity and sustain ecological processes. Instead, a landscape-scale approach looks at sustainable management of a mosaic of land uses, where people live and work in harmony with nature and within the natural resource limits of the landscape. With 80% of the region in private hands it is up to the private land owners to assist where possible to protect or rehabilitate the fynbos found on their properties. Golf Courses offer an opportunity for privately owned land to assist in the protection our natural biodiversity.
Golfcourse maintenance of grassland/fynbos rehabilitation zones:
The low maintenance grassland/fynbos and wetland areas can assist a golf course to increase the number of the plants and as a result the resident bird, mammal, reptile and invertebrate populations on an estate; without the supporting vegetation the wildlife would not be present either in the diversity or numbers that could potentially be found on a golf estate.
1. Mowing of the natural areas will result in the destruction of the vertical structure of the vegetation type, with the elimination of serotinous (plants that flower late in the season) and taller plant species. The grassland/fynbos zones act as a place of refuge, nesting sites as well as hunting and feeding areas for birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and amphibians alike. In order to maintain the high levels of wildlife diversity on an estate it is essential that these areas are maintained with minimal disturbance. Mowing of these areas directly reduces the number of species and individuals present on the estate, and devastates the functionality of the natural areas on the property.
2. Wildlife has a role to play in the functioning of the grassland/fynbos ecosystem. A few examples of the interactions between species are mentioned below.
• The fynbos ecosystem relies on the resident birds, small mammal and insect population for pollination and seed dispersal;
• The bird and small mammal populations rely on the vegetation type for food, refuge and nesting sites;
• The small mammals are prey for the predatory bird populations that utilise this vegetation type as hunting grounds;
• The snake population helps to control the small mammals and in turn are prey for some of the bird species;
3. The disturbance to these areas results in what some golf players perceive as a beneficial displacement of “undesirable” species; however, the snakes and small mammals that are disturbed by the mowing activities will seek refuge in the nearest areas of lower disturbance – for example the gardens and home areas of residents on the estate. By maintaining a low level of disturbance one is allowing the development of a stable ecosystem, and minimal displacement of those species utilising the fynbos/grassland areas as habitat.
In George we have the privilege of having a golf course (The Links at Fancourt) that has made significant inroads in to rehabilitating areas of the golf course back to grassland/fynbos areas. This supports the current biodiversity legislation in South Africa (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act No 10, 2004), in that these rehabilitated areas meet the objective of the act which provides for: the management and conservation of biological diversity within the Republic and of the components of such biological diversity (Objectives of the Act: 2 (a) (i)).
The decision of the estate to allow these areas to be maintained with minimal disturbance have resulted in the development of flourishing natural zones; these areas provide an opportunity for the estate to refine the fynbos areas further, providing refuge for endangered and protected species, establishing true biodiversity stewardship.
Geography and Environmental Management