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FEATURE / EMMA JORDAN

                                                                                                                                                                                                     tretching from George to the municipal
                                                                                                                                                                                                     boundary of Port Elizabeth, the Garden
                                                                                                                                                                                                     Route Biosphere Reserve (GRBR) is located
                                                                                                                                                                                               Swithin the Cape Floristic biodiversity
          BLOOMING                                                                                                                                                                             hotspot region.

                                                                                                                                                                                               The GRBR area includes the Tsitsikamma,
                                                                                                                                                                                               Goukamma and Robberg Marine Protected Areas,
          BIOSPHERE                                                                                                                                                                            Wilderness Lake Ramsar site, Garden Route
                                                                                                                                                                                               National Park and two components of the Cape
                                                                                                                                                                                               Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage site:
                                                                                                                                                                                               the Nelson Bay Cave and the Langkloof Valley.

          In June this year the Garden Route was                                                                                                                                               The application was supported by the Department
                                                                                                                                                                                               of Environmental Affairs, and local municipalities
                                                                                                                                                                                               including Bitou, Eden, Kouga and KaggaKamma,
          officially awarded UNESCO Biosphere                                                                                                                                                  plus George and Sarah Baartman.
          status. The latest of South Africa's nine                                                                                                                                            According to Errol Finkelstein the Chairman of
                                                                                                                                                                                               the GRBR, the main objective of biospheres is
          designated areas, recognition opens up                                                                                                                                               to reconcile man’s inhabitance of the territory
                                                                                                                                                                                               with long term sustainable living; biospheres
                                                                                                                                                                                               are not just about ecological longevity, but more
          ecological, social and economic support.                                                                                                                                             importantly about how man and nature can
                                                                                                                                                                                               symbiotically live in harmony and prosper.

                                                                                                                                                                                               “It's about man and nature living in parallel,”
                                                                                                                                                                                               says Finkelstein. “The Garden Route Biosphere
                                                                                                                                                                                               Reserve covers over 300km of coastline and
                                                                                                                                                                                               ventures approximately 50km inland and as such
                                                                                                                                                                                               it encompasses not only natural geography, but
                                                                                                                                                                                               importantly human settlements. Additionally the
                                                                                                                                                                                               ongoing advantage with UNESCO affiliation is
                                                                                                                                                                                               access to global information and standardised
                                                                                                                                                                                               practice, as well as potential funding links.”
                                                                                                                                                                                               The application process is onerous and according
                                                                                                                                                                                               to Finkelstein over 8,500 pages of documentation
                                                                                                                                                                                               was submitted before the status was granted in
                                                                                                                                                                                               June this year.
                                                                                                                                                                                               “Collectively the five Biospheres of the Western
                                                                                                                                                                                               Cape cover one third of the land,” explains
                                                                                                                                                                                               Finkelstein. He continues to say that biospheres
                                                                                                                                                                                               “have an immense contribution to make not just
                                                                                                                                                                                               by virtue of what they do, but also by example
                                                                                                                                                                                               because in essence they recognise climate
                                                                                                                                                                                               change and that man continually needs social
                                                                                                                                                                                               upliftment. In order to reconcile these real
                                                                                                                                                                                               challenges with the natural order of things and the
                                                                                                                                                                                               environment, these become real questions that
                                                                                                                                                                                               need serious solutions – this is not a hypothetical
                                                                                                                                                                                               situation.”

                                                                                                                                                                                               There are 672 biosphere reserves  across the
                                                                                                                                                                                               world, more than 60 of them in Africa. These areas
                                                                                                                                                                                               are  terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems,
                                                                                                                                                                                               which, UNESCO says  promote "solutions
                                                                                                                                                                                               reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with
                                                                                                                                                                                               its sustainable use."

                                                                                                                                                                                               With the latest announcement, South Africa
                                                                                                                                                                                         Photo by Glenn Murray  located throughout the country. They include
                                                                                                                                                                                               now boasts nine reserves. The others all vary
                                                                                                                                                                                               in size, geography and demographics, and are
                                                                                                                                                                                               Gouritz,  Kogelberg, the  Cape West Coast,
                                                                                                                                                                                               Waterberg, Kruger to Canyons, the  Cape
                                                                                                                                                                                               Winelands and  Vhembe –  five in the Western
                                                                                                                                                                                               Cape (one overlapping with the Eastern Cape),


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