In her recently completed Masters project, Amy Murray conducted a socio-ecological analysis of environmental change over the past 100 years in the Kannaland Municipality of the Klein Karoo.
In this study a triangulation of methodologies was used to assess the main environmental and anthropogenic drivers of change in natural vegetation and land use in the Kannaland Municipality of the Klein Karoo over the last 100 years. Repeat ground photography, historical climate and agricultural data, and in-depth, semi-structured interviews were used to assess this change. Field work was conducted between June 2014 and January 2015.
For most of the 20th century agricultural land use within the Klein Karoo has undergone fluctuations of increased and decreased productivity. However, during the later decades a noticeable decline in agricultural land use, especially sheep and goat production, has been recorded. Largely due to this, and contrary to degradation projections for this area, evidence of growth in cover of natural vegetation, especially over the last 20 years, was found. From the mid 1990s change from largely agricultural to recreational game and weekend farming as well as tourism-related land use has increased. Implications of recent land use change have had both positive and negative effects. For example, the demise in extensive agricultural land use for the area has led to increases in natural vegetation cover and biodiversity but has also resulted in a decline in farm-based employment and agricultural productivity.
Research findings emphasise the importance of building the capacity of agricultural and conservation extension services within the Klein Karoo to enable optimal land use management and biodiversity conservation. Land use diversification that is inclusive of agricultural production, conservation of biodiversity and development is recommended as a strategy, particularly within the tourism sector. Substantial increases in game farming in the study area will require stringent monitoring and research into the long-term implications of this land use on natural vegetation.