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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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