The different disciplines of Agriculture, Forestry and Wildlife management are without doubt independent yet they are inextricably connected. Each discipline affects the others; consequently a holistic approach to any field of environmental management is increasingly accepted as the way forward. In the 1920’s a young American forester from Yale was assigned to Arizona Territories in the USA. Having spent most of his childhood in the wild, with this new assignment he threw his passion and enthusiasm into the land, spending every waking hour gaining insight and coming to see the environment as an single organism, he developed his philosophy of the inter relationship between all living creatures. Aldo Leopold’s thinking was way before its time and he truly is the founding father of wildlife management. Leopold believed in extending the definition of a community to include not just people but all elements of the natural world, including soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: “the land.” Leopold saw himself as a life-long student of the land and advocated adopting a “Land Ethic“. Possibly it is this philosophy that UNESCO adopted when they created the Biosphere Reserve concept.
Biosphere Reserves are designated regions throughout the world where internationally important ecosystems and protected areas lie adjacent to human settlements, and are established to promote solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use.
The aim of a Biosphere Reserve is to create a platform to bring together governments, the private sector, NGO’s and all involved in land use to promote sustainable development.
Each Biosphere Reserve is conceived to fulfil:
• a developmental role, combining conservation objectives with the sustainable use of ecosystem resources to benefit local communities;
• a conservation role, protecting locally-occurring genetic resources, plant and animal species, and ecosystems and landscapes of value to maintain biological diversity and life-support systems; and
• a logistical role, providing research, monitoring education and training opportunities for local, regional and worldwide purposes, through exchanges organised within the framework of an international network that links all Biosphere Reserves under the auspices of UNESCO.
On 20 Sept 2001 the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere was registered as the 411th biosphere reserve in the world. The Kruger to Canyon (K2C) biosphere in South Africa stretches from Kruger National Park in the east to the Blyde River Canyon in the west and encompasses 3 biomes namely Savannah, Afromontane Forests and Afromontane Grasslands, approximately 4,800, 000 ha in extent. The altitude ranges from 300 meters above sea level to 2000 m up on the Drakensburg Escarpment. As the altitude and consequently the rainfall increases from east to west an extensive biodiversity can be witnessed from savannah to rain forests, climax grass land and fynbos.
The Lowveld area of SA (making up part of the biosphere) has a greater biodiversity than some entire countries as demonstrated in the table below.
Species Number in the Lowveld – % of Southern African Species – % of African Species
Birds 520 – 72%- 31%
Reptiles 118 – 41% – 12%
Amphibians 35 – 40% – 6%
Fish 53 – 18% – 2%
Mammals 148 – 64% – 18%
Plant 1,981 – 10% – Unknown
Taxa found in the Lowveld Savannahs
A Biosphere Reserve aspires to create a “land ethic” in all concerned. This is a major challenge in the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere with high levels of unemployment and poverty. The land use within the Biosphere is varied with tourism becoming increasingly significant. The Phalaborwa area is extensively mined and the Valley of the Olifants is dotted with citrus estates and mango plantations. Cattle farming used to be common but most of these farms have reverted back to game and been swallowed up into one to the many private nature reserves. Development and job creation are vital to the well being of any community and it is hoped that the “land ethic” within the biosphere will steer it towards a sustainable future.