The challenge of environmental governance: the case of mainstreaming biodiversity in productive landscapes, with specific reference to the Gouritz initiative in the Western Cape

Wessels, Nadia ; Kobus, Muller (2012-03)

Wessels, N. & Muller, K. 2012. The challenge of environmental governance: the case of mainstreaming biodiversity in productive landscapes, with specific reference to the Gouritz initiative in the Western Cape. South African Journal for Political Science and Public Administration, 31:3, pp31-52.

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Article

South Africa boasts one of the world's richest and most diverse natural landscapes and is world-renowned for its biodiversity. The Cape Floristic Region, particularly, is the world's sixth and smallest floral kingdom and the only one housed within the confines of a single country and predominantly within the Western Cape Province. It is also the richest, with more than 9 000 plant species. This region is considered one of the world's 25 most threathened biodiversity hotspots; most of the priority areas fall outside of existing statutorily protected areas and are mainly on privately owned land. Ensuring ecological sustainability across a diverse range of productive sectors and landscapes requires partnerships and a form of environmental governance that mediates the interactions between society, the economy and ecological functions. The collaborative environmental governance process is complex, as a result of the multitude and diverse range of socio-economic and political issues; the cross-cutting nature of environmental issues that span national, provincial and local spheres of government; and the uncertainty and unpredictability of ecological processess and functions, particularly on a landscape scale. This article focuses on the Gouritz initiative, a landscape-scale conservation and development initiative in the Western Cape. It was established in recognition of the challenges of concurrent governance for the long-term protection of the area's globally significant biodiversity. The continued efforts of collaborative planning, implementation and adaptation in the Gouritz Initiative have demonstrated that despite the complex, ongoing challenges associated with cooperative environmental governance, conservation initiatives can be successful if society's nees, most of which are socio-economic, are balanced with the need for biodiversity protection.

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