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Not so wild on the Wild Coast: Landscape changes and threats to biodiversity on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast and the role of protected areas in communal areas
The Pondoland centre of endemism is the smallest and perhaps the most vulnerable in South Africa. Its importance has been globally recognized by its inclusion within Conservation Internationals Maputu-Pondoland- Albany hotspot.
The Wild Coast Project, a GEF funded initiative, administered by the ECPBT aims to establish a representative network of co managed protected areas across the Pondoland center and within the Wild Coast. A number of case studies are used to examine the key threats, systemic relationships between these, and the drivers of landscape change on the Wild Coast. In light of this, the question is asked: how effective the proposed community protected areas will be to ensure persistence of biodiversity on the Wild Coast?
The case studies include a number of ecosystems, including mangrove estuaries, scarp forests, and the grasslands /thorn veld/forest mosaic. Case studies are the result of numerous site visits, literature reviews, discussion with locals, and GIS analysis of past areal and satellite imagery.
The case studies reveal the essential paradox of conservation in communal areas, like the Wild Coast. On the one hand, the human footprint and level of transformation appears to be relatively low when compared to the highly transformed landscapes of commercial agriculture; but on the other hand, closer inspection and analysis of landscape and associated environment changes, reveals highly dynamic and vulnerable systems showing the signs of an ‘environmental meltdown’. This threatens not only the livelihoods of many depended on natural resources, but also the irreplaceable biodiversity associated with these areas.