Insights into Biodiversity Conservation within Mpumalanga
The MTPA are embarking on providing an annual summary of biodiversity conservation within Mpumalanga, called "Insights into Biodiversity Conservation within Mpumalanga". This is our first and rather brief attempt that we hope to expand over the next few years, being developed by the MTPA's Scientific Services division.
Mpumalanga is a province well known for its globally important biodiversity, its wealth of natural resources and spectacular natural vistas. Its terrestrial ecosystems are characterised by high levels of both plant and animal diversity and a significant number of unique species that are not known to occur anywhere else but within our provincial boundary. Three different biomes occur within Mpumalanga and, although they all contain important and often unique biodiversity, it is in our grasslands that many of our unique, rare and threatened species and ecosystems are found. Mpumalanga's freshwater ecosystems are also home to important biodiversity and represent high value ecological infrastructure for delivering water for human use. Endowed as it is with over 10 000 wetlands, and with the waters of at least five of South Africa's important river systems rising in its highlands, the Province accounts for a high proportion of the country's Strategic Water Source Areas and plays a critically important role in terms of regional and national water security.
Although approximately 60% of Mpumalanga's landscapes outside of our protected areas are still in a 'natural' state, these are not in a good ecological state – a variety of land-use pressures and consumptive practices over the years have resulted in the degradation and loss of important habitat, with the result that many of our natural ecosystems are currently classed as either vulnerable or endangered. Agriculture, plantation forestry and mining (with its associated energy-generation industry) are the cornerstones of the provincial economy, and it is vitally important that these production sectors are strengthened and sustainable. Another non-consumptive and important sector is tourism - adventure and nature-based tourism is a growing economic sector that relies on intact and well-managed natural landscapes and ecosystems. It holds great potential to provide many more economic opportunities going into the future.