Biodiversity enhancement in Cape Flats urban habitats

Faul, Andre Karel (2005-12)

Thesis (MSc (Conservation Ecology and Entomology))--University of Stellenbosc, 2005.


Biodiversity is under enormous pressure from an increasing human population. Urbanisation, agriculture, and mining are just some of the factors responsible for the continuous degradation of the natural environment. Of these, urbanisation is one of the leading factors of diversity loss. To address this problem, it is necessary to understand the relationship between biodiversity and urban areas, as well as the relationship between society and biodiversity. This study focuses on these relationships and suggest ways in which urban biodiversity can be maximised without compromising on development. In order to create an urban environment that successfully supports maximised biodiversity, new methods and ideas must be developed to promote the protection of urban ecosystems. The Cape Floristic Region in South Africa is a good example of an area that requires immediate action in order to prevent enormous losses in biodiversity. Data have shown drastic decreases in natural vegetation cover in this area, and with its close to 9000 species, of which approximately 60% occurs nowhere else in the world. This state of affairs should be regarded as a serious crisis. This study consists of three main parts, the first being a literature review on the current relationships between the urban environment, society, and biodiversity. The second and third parts report on two empirical investigations on the campus of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch in the City of Cape Town. The first of these investigates the possibility of using spirituality connected to nature as a promotional tool for conservation through rehabilitation or restoration of damaged urban vegetation habitats. For this purpose students’ and staff members’ opinions of the urban nature at the campus were tested. In the second investigation the options of restoring biodiversity to the campus was considered by exploring the best options available for rehabilitation while taking the current biodiversity status on and around the premises into account. This was carried out through three smaller projects that included the physical reintroduction of plant species, vegetation analysis, and bird identification and attraction. The response of employees and students at the Faculty of Health Sciences was found to be in favour of restoring vegetation and animal life to the campus. This is supported by a belief that their attitude towards their work would improve with improved natural surroundings. Initial rehabilitation attempts highlighted the complexity of rehabilitation practices by bringing forward challenges and problems experienced with the reintroduction of plant species. Despite these problems, increased plant diversity in experimental areas showed the possibility of successfully completing the project. Biodiversity analysis showed that methods of controlling vegetation used by the university are doing more harm than good, as it results in indigenous vegetation being displaced by exotic vegetation. This study introduces a number of questions regarding the relationship between urbanisation and biodiversity and to what extent the two should be linked. Hopefully it is a step in the direction towards marrying the urban and natural environment, and to create a sustainable urban environment where society no longer sees nature as something outside the city boundaries.

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