A comparison of standard scientific methods and pastoralists’ perceptions of vegetation responses to livestock exclusion in Namaqualand, South Africa

Snyman, Dirk (2010-03)

Thesis (MSc (Conservation Ecology and Entomology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: Protected areas do not always achieve the desired level of biodiversity conservation, while often reducing the welfare of indigenous communities by reducing availability of land for subsistence. Traditional agricultural landscapes are significant biodiversity refugia and can contribute meaningfully to conservation. Rangelands comprise one-third to one-half of the world’s terrestrial surface, providing livelihoods for around 220 million people, usually in a communal subsistence system. Colonial practices impinged on traditional land-use practices with far-reaching social and environmental impacts. This has resulted in management based on assumptions regarding vegetation dynamics and traditional lifestyles that are increasingly shown to be inaccurate. A comparison of a vegetation survey based on conventional scientific methods and a survey of the perceptions of pastoralists was undertaken to highlight differences and similarities between the two knowledge systems with the hope of providing guidelines for more sustainable land-use practices in the communal rangelands of Namaqualand, South Africa. Vegetation responses to removal of grazing pressure revealed complex interactions that do not correspond with the prevailing management paradigm. Rather than a predictive relationship between livestock and vegetation, environmental factors play a large role in determining plant composition, abundance and cover. Pastoralists’ perceptions reflected this complexity in rangeland resource dynamics. The impact of livestock on rangeland resource dynamics was perceived by herders to be secondary to a range of environmental and climatic factors. Both sets of results were at odds with the theories that currently govern management in this system. Studies in rangeland systems must take the complexity of the subject into account. Research into such socio-ecological systems must take a multiplicity of factors – social, environmental, economic, political and other – into account. Implications for management are that it is inappropriate to adhere strictly to the conventional, conservative strategies that are prescribed by conservation and agricultural authorities. Rather, a more flexible, opportunistic grazing strategy would allow the persistence of traditional subsistence livelihoods without serious negative consequences for biodiversity conservation.

AFRIKAANSR OPSOMMING: Die instelling van beskermde gebiede lewer nie altyd die gewenste vlak van biodiversiteitsbewaring, terwyl die welvaart van plaaslike gemeenskappe dikwels daaronder ly deur die afname in grond beskikbaar vir bestaanspraktyke. Tradisionele landboulandskappe is beduidende biodiversiteitshawens wat ‘n belangrike bydrae tot bewaring kan maak. Weivelde bevat ‘n derde tot ‘n helfte van die wêreld se landsoppervlakte en ondersteun rondom 220 miljoen mense, gewoonlik binne ‘n gemeenskaplike bestaansstelsel. Kolonialisasie het inbraak gemaak op tradisionele bestuurspraktyke, met verrykende sosialeen omgewingsimpakte. Dit het gelei tot bestuurspraktyke gebaseer op standpunte oor plantegroeidinamika en traditionele lewenswyses wat toenemend verkeerd bywys word. ‘n Vergelyking van ‘n plantegroei opname gebaseer op konvensionele wetenskaplike metodes en ‘n opname van die standpunte van veewagters is onderneem om die verskille en ooreenkomstes tussen die twee kennisstelsels uiteen te lê met die hoop om riglyne vir meer volhoubare bestuurspraktyke in die meentgronde van Namakwaland, Suid-Afrika te verskaf. Plantegroei reaksies tot die verwydering van weidingsdruk wys op komplekse interaksies wat nie ooreenstem met die heersende bestuursparadigma. Eerder as ‘n voorspelbare verwantskap tussen vee en plantegroei, omgewingsfaktore speel ‘n groot rol in die bepaling van plantgemeenskapsamestelling, -getalle en grondbedekking. Die veewagters se standpunte het hierdie kompleksiteit in plantegroeidinamika weerspiëel. Die impak van vee op die weiveldhulpbron is deur veewagters as sekondêr beskou teenoor ‘n reeks omgewings- en klimaatsfaktore. Beide stel resultate is in teenstelling met die teoriëe wat tans bestuur in hierdie stelsel bepaal. Studies in weiveldstelsels moet die kompleksiteit daarvan in ag neem. Navorsing oor hierdie sosio-ekologiese stelsels moet ‘n verskeidenheid faktore – sosiale-, omgewings-, ekonomiese-, politiese- en ander – in ag neem. Implikasies vir bestuur is dat dit onvanpas is om te volhard met konvensionele, konservatiewe strategiëe voorgeskryf deur bewarings- en landboukundige gesagte. ‘n Meer aanpasbare, voordeelnemende weidingsstrategie sal die voortbestaan van traditionele bestaanslewenspraktyke toelaat sonder ernstige negatiewe nagevolge vir biodiversiteitsbewaring.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4208
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