Vegetation type conservation targets, status and level of protection in KwaZulu-Natal in 2016
Keywords:Conservation planning;, biomes, targets, conservation status, vegetation types
Background: Systematic conservation planning aims to ensure representivity and persistence of biodiversity. Quantitative targets set to meet these aims provide a yardstick with which to measure the current conservation status of biodiversity features and measure the success of conservation actions.
Objectives: The conservation targets and current ecosystem status of vegetation types and biomes occurring in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) were assessed, and their level of formal protection was determined, to inform conservation planning initiatives in the province.
Method: Land cover maps of the province were used to determine the amount of natural habitat remaining in KZN. This was intersected with the vegetation map and assessed relative to their conservation targets to determine the ecosystem status of each vegetation type in KZN. The proclaimed protected areas were used to determine the level of protection of each vegetation type.
Results: In 17 years (1994–2011), 19.7% of natural habitat was lost to anthropogenic conversion of the landscape. The Indian Ocean Coastal Belt and Grassland biomes had the least remaining natural habitat, the highest rates of habitat loss and the least degree of formal protection.
Conclusion: These findings inform conservation priorities in the province. Vegetation type targets need to be revised to ensure long-term persistence. Business-as-usual is no longer an option if we are to meet the legislative requirements and mandates to conserve the environment for current and future generations.