Which cities have successfully applied ecosystem restoration strategies? What can we learn from them?
Invasive alien plants (IAPs) are a threat, not only to South Africa’s biological diversity, but to the country’s water security, livelihoods and economy. Of the estimated 9,000 plants introduced to South Africa, about 198 are currently classified as invasive. According to the recent status report on biological invasions, this is the third largest threat to South Africa’s biodiversity, following cultivation and land degradation, and contributes 25% of all biodiversity loss in the country. Moreover, South Africa is a water scarce country, therefore, ensuring sustainable use and management of water resources and water-related ecological infrastructure is a priority for the national government. The Working for Water (WfW) program, launched in 1995, has been catalytic in the restoration of South Africa’s degraded ecosystems. The program is anchored in the development of people as an essential element of environmental conservation, and has accordingly substantially contributed to job creation through invasive alien species clearing activities. WfW strives for the inclusion of youth, women and people living with disabilities in their community development goals.
Mauritius has one of the most threatened island floras in the world. More than 89% of its endemic plant species are considered at risk
of extinction, and only ~2,600 ha of reasonable quality native forest remain, representing less than 2% of the total area of the island. Much of Mauritius’ fauna, unique to the island, has disappeared along with the forest; 24 of the 52 native species of forest vertebrates that were known, are now extinct. Remaining fauna species are under pressure as the forest becomes more and more degraded.
The Mediterranean Sea is home to the Special Conservation Area off the cliffs and seabed of Punta de la Mona in the Granada region of Spain. This area was declared a National Park in 2015 because of its high ecological value, given that several species of cold-water corals are found here, including the chandelier coral (Dendrophyllia ramea) and the orange coral (Astroides calycularis) – two endangered species of which little was known until now. Despite measures to formally protect and safeguard the area’s biodiversity, the area still faces threats from human activities such as recreational or sport fishing, which continue to degrade the coral ecosystems. Corals play a crucial role in sustaining marine communities, with most marine species directly or indirectly dependent on corals for shelter, mating grounds and food. They can also reduce the severity of storm surges. Cold-water coral ecosystems shelter up to 29 times more wildlife compared to marine areas without corals, making their restoration critical to conserving marine biodiversity.
Rising temperatures, longer dry spells, more intense heavy rainfall and sea-level rise, makes Tanzania the 26th most vulnerable country to climate risks. Dodoma, in Tanzania, is a city with a rapid rate of urbanisation and uneven population growth. Key environmental challenges have been identified by residents in Dodoma as drought, accompanied by changing rain patterns and destabilization of cropping and harvesting seasons, deforestation, resulting in land degradation, reduced fuel wood and increased burden on women who source it, flooding, exacerbating erosion, human and livestock disease, and limited groundwater recharge.