The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere is due to be officially launched this month, forming part of the Limpopo activities to celebrate World Environment Week. Internationally recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2001, the idea of the biosphere was first put forward in the 1980s. Nothing further came of this until 1998, when a biosphere steering committee was formed at a stakeholder meeting.
UNESCO defines a biosphere reserve as a specific type of conservation area, which accommodates and benefits both the natural environment and the communities living in and around it. The Kruger to Canyons biosphere has several biosphere ideals, including the presence of a core conservation area (the Kruger National Park), buffer areas where conservation is a priority along with commercial activities, and finally transitional zones where there are more people and more commercial activities.
The Blyde Canyon National Park is also recognised as a core conservation area in the biosphere. The biosphere goes from the Drakensberg escarpment into the lowveld, and contains three of South Africa’s seven biomes – grassland, forest and savanna. Within the Kruger to Canyons boundaries there are estimated to be 905 vertebrate species and 2760 plant species. There are numerous endemic species of plants and animals as well as over 100 red data book animal species. One of the biosphere’s objectives is to engage communities in the concept of sustainable utilisation of resources, and to guide development along sustainable lines. This is in line with the UNESCO ‘Man and the Biosphere’ programme launched in 1968.