n South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences - The ecological and economic consequences of changing land use in the southern Drakensberg grasslands : environmental and ecological economics

Volume 10, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1015-8812
  • E-ISSN: 2222-3436



The grassland biome of the southern Drakensberg region of South Africa is characterised by a relatively rich floral biodiversity, including a high level of endemics. Land use in the area was traditionally dominated by livestock ranching based mainly on indigenous grassland that conserved biodiversity to some degree. Currently, however, market demands and risk factors are shifting land use in the area to a matrix of beef, cropping, dairy and, in particular, plantation forestry. A spreadsheet model was constructed to assist understanding of how expected land-use conversion will in all likelihood influence the biodiversity, and, consequently, the total economic value (TEV) of the area. Six scenarios of increasing dairy and forestry intensification were modelled, incorporating biophysical and legal constraints to development. Results indicate that enhanced development is likely to have significant negative biodiversity impacts, including the reduction of the alpha diversity of the indigenous plants in the region, a diminished local invertebrate diversity and an increase in invasions. This could also jeopardise the long-term survival of the rare Wattled Crane and Oribi. Furthermore, while the direct-use value derived from agriculture and forestry increases with increasing development, its negative influence on the indirect value of water runoff, by far the greatest value of the area, is sufficient to potentially offset the benefits. Other major direct-use, indirect-use, option and existence values are also considered.

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