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Cape Restoration Network Established

The participants of the workshop included: left to right standing from: Connie Krug, Steffen Heelemann, Mirijam Gaertner, Ruwanza Sheunesu, Dave Richardson, Hervé Memiaghe and Charles Musil. Seated are Karen Esler and Pat Holmes.

On 10 October 2007, the C·I·B hosted the first meeting of a group of researchers and students working in various capacities on issues relating to restoration of natural vegetation in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR). The idea is to promote cooperation and exchange information among the small number of ecologists working in this field in the region. The workshop was hosted by C·I·B core-team members Dave Richardson and Karen Esler, and was attended by restoration ecology expert Dr Pat Holmes (Environmental Resource Management Department, City of Cape Town ), Dr Mirijam Gaertner (C·I·B post-doctoral associate), Dr Cornelia Krug (UCT), Dr Charles Musil (SANBI) and students Steffen Heelemann, Hervé Memiaghe, and Ruwanza Sheunesu. Dr Gaertner and the three students made presentations about their current work in restoration. Aims of this work, results, methods, and preliminary results were discussed by the group.

After the presentations the participants discussed the future structure and functions of the working group. It was agreed that there would be a focus on restoration generally, concentrating on vegetation and factors important for ecosystem processes as well as vegetation structure and composition. The CFR, including the Succulent Karoo and Fynbos Biomes will be the main geographical focus area for the working group. The group's focus can also include another prominent vegetation type in the region - strandveld – that falls into the Thicket Biome. To facilitate cooperation and information exchange further, the workshop participants suggested that a restoration network, including other individuals and authorities as active participants, should be formed. C.I.B. researchers will initiate the network through email connections and will convene meetings according to requirements. However it was agreed that use would be made of existing structures, such as the Fynbos Forum, to convene larger workshops.

Initial objectives of the group are, among others, to organise workshops in 2008 to address the following subjects:

“What is the potential role of restoration in strategic planning to conserve ecosystems and species in the CFR?” The concern is that although advances have been made in restoration ecology in the CFR, strategies for long-term conservation in the region tend to downplay the potential role of restoration in contributing to overall targets. The rationale for this is presumably a concern that the importance of preventing degradation is undermined if the expectation is created that ecosystems can be restored once degraded. There is clearly merit in this argument, but in many vegetation types restoration is the only option of attaining conservation targets. The aim is to publish a position paper from this workshop.

Setting realistic targets for restoration in the CFR” was proposed as a possible subject for a workshop at the combined Fynbos Forum/Arid Zone Ecology Forum (“Interfaces”) meeting in August 2008. The underlying idea is to make restoration more accessible and understandable to empower landowners to undertake restoration projects on their land. The results will also be published in a position paper.

Further information on the Cape Restoration Network can be obtained from Dr Mirijam Gaertner (e-mail: gaertnem@sun.ac.za; Tel: (021) 808-3413).

The participants of the workshop included: left to right standing from: Connie Krug, Steffen Heelemann, Mirijam Gaertner, Ruwanza Sheunesu, Dave Richardson, Hervé Memiaghe and Charles Musil. Seated are Karen Esler and Pat Holmes.