NCC Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd

Ecosystem management planning for farm conversion - case study

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Courtesy of NCC Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd

Based on a survey that revealed unexpected plant and animal treasures, we developed an ecosystem management plan to harmonise activity with the environment.

Based on a survey that revealed unexpected plant and animal treasures on a Western Cape Farm, we developed an ecosystem management plan to harmonise economic activity with the natural environment.

Voorhoede Farm near Caledon in the Western Cape has historically been a grain and sheep farm, which is now being converted to small-scale high-quality beef cattle and boutique vineyards. The change is motivated by a desire to reduce the impact of farming on the land. The owners want to improve the conservation value of the farm by protecting and adding to existing natural areas, as well as returning wildlife to the farm.

NCC was commissioned to conduct a baseline survey of flora and fauna, and then to draw up an ecosystem management plan based on its findings. The survey revealed natural wealth that the owners had not been aware of, including:

  • Several populations of a new frog species, the Rough Moss Frog - recently described from the farm, some of which were under threat from alien vegetation.
  • An undescribed fish, Galaxias sp. nov., in the farm dam.
  • A total of 384 plant species, of which41 are on the Red List.

The survey included detailed GIS mapping of all vegetation (including alien infestations), erosion systems and sensitive habitat areas. The GIS database prepared for the owners includes photographs so changes can be tracked over time, and can be accessed via the internet.

Our management plan laid out in detail the current state of ecosystems on the farm, ranked the issues in order of criticality (erosion and alien vegetation being the most important problems), provided etailed management actions and made recommendations for future action.

One of NCC’s most important contributions to this project was a different perspective: Paying attention to what is happening on a micro level enabled the owners to see a familiar piece of land through new eyes, giving fresh energy and focus to their plans for the farm.

Early results of NCC’s work at Voorhoede include:

  • A piece of land initially earmarked for Shiraz vines was identified as being of special significance and has been set aside for conservation.
  • Repairs to the farm dam to stop erosion have made a top priority.
  • The landowners have a plan for clearing alien vegetation, and NCC has offered to help them find the right contractors and ensure the standard of work.

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