Declaration Signed to Protect Country's Grasslands

Buyelwa Sonjica, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and eight MECs responsible for environmental affairs from Gauteng, North West, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape signed the Grasslands Declaration committing Government to the conservation of grasslands Biodiversity in July 2010.

The Declaration is an effort to collaborate efforts in pursuit of biodiversity targets and objectives in securing and sustaining the ecosystem services of the grasslands biome. The Declaration also intends to involve a wide range of interested and affected parties, including local communities and resource users, in the management and conservation of biodiversity in the grasslands biome.

The South African grasslands biome is the second largest biome in South Africa, covering an area of 339 237 kmĀ² and it occurs in eight of South Africa's nine provinces. The grasslands biome is one of the most threatened biomes in South Africa, with 30% irreversibly transformed and only 1.9% of the biodiversity target for the biome formally conserved.

Sonjica said, "Several of South Africa's priority river catchments occur in the grasslands biome, including the Thukela River catchment.

Good management of South Africa's mountain grasslands will result in more water released back into the river catchment system in the form of 12, 8 cubic meters of water in winter riverflows. In rand value, this equates to between R18 million and R88, 7 million per annum."

The Grasslands Programme is managed through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs.

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