Karoo creeping into KZN

2015-09-02 06:00
The Karoo in 1400.PHOTO: supplied

The Karoo in 1400.PHOTO: supplied

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BY 2050 the Karoo may be as close as the town of Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal if current conditions prevail, so says local ecologist, Pieter du Plessis.

“The first inhabitants of the Karoo started a hail of destruction and killing of wildlife. Wildlife has been replaced by farmers who introduced sheep in the regions of the Karoo that ultimately destroyed the natural grasslands of the Karoo. Sadly nobody tried to attain a balance between nature and agriculture, until the coming of agricultural colleges and professional assistance in later years. The only plants that remained were of no use to beast and man and thus led to the Karoo expanding at an alarming rate, and today almost two thirds of South Africa consists of the Karoo,” Du Plessis said.

Du Plessis provided the Fever with three maps (pictured). “On map number one you can see what the country must have looked like in 1400. During that period the Karoo consisted mostly of grasslands with thousands of wild animals such as the Springbok antelope. While South Africa is the only country with an entire floral kingdom within its boundaries with a very unique vegetation of about 20 000 flowering plants, there is little or no vegetation in South Africa which is in its original conditions,” said Du Plessis referring to the work and studies of the late Dr J.H.P. Acocks, who made the first studies and a catalogue of plant and grass species of South Africa.

Looking at map number two, the alarming change in the spread of the Karoo at the expense of the sweet grass-veld is evident. The spread of the Karoo eastwards has amounted to 250km in parts and is still proceeding. Traveling along the N1 highways from Bloemfontein towards the Cape boundary are the great savannah plains that consisted of mainly sweet grass-veld. With the current low rainfall data and agricultural expansion this region is now under threat.

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