The Gauteng Conservation Plan: Planning for biodiversity in a rapidly urbanising province
Background: Gauteng, the smallest of South Africa’s nine provinces, is rich in biodiversity; yet it is also the most densely populated province and thus faces significant development pressures.
Objective: A project was therefore initiated in 2001 to identify areas of biodiversity importance in the province, using the systematic spatial biodiversity planning approach that has been adopted in South Africa. This article reports on the final version of the provincial conservation plan as completed in 2011.
Method: Vegetation types and quaternary catchments constituted the coarse filter biodiversity features, while rare and threatened taxa constituted the fine filter features. Ecological processes were captured by a range of landscape features, while planning for climate change primarily involved the design of a corridor network. Planning was undertaken within the ArcView linked C-plan decision support system, where a cost surface preferentially directed the selection of available sites towards low-cost areas.
Results: Forty-four per cent of the province is required to achieve targets. Only 8% of features are close to having their targets met or are adequately conserved in the current protected area network of 23 protected areas covering 2.4% of the province, while 73% of features are absent or poorly represented.
Conclusion: The existing protected area network is inadequate for the conservation of biodiversity in Gauteng. The Gauteng Conservation Plan identifies a set of areas that are required to achieve conservation targets. It is important that identified areas currently not in the protected area network are protected either formally or through legislated land use management processes.