The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Riverine Rabbit Programme has been working with the Climate Action Partnership on a Riparian Habitat Rehabilitation Project designed to rehabilitate key river system corridors in the Karoo. A very important goal of the project is to protect, conserve, and restore the habitat of the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit by working in partnership with local landowners and farmers to establish biodiversity stewardship corridors. The project combines sustainable water and biodiversity conservation with job creation and skills development in the local rural community around Loxton, in order to increase the resilience of ecosystems and communities to climate change. The project also promotes adaptation to climate change, restoring river systems to help buffer the human and biodiversity communities in the Nama Karoo against the potential negative impacts of climate change such as drought or increased temperatures by securing access to water.
Healthy Riverine systems provide important ecological services which promote the resilience of ecosystems and communities to climate change more broadly. These include storing water, reducing the impacts of floods, stabilising river banks and preventing soil erosion, improving water quality by trapping sediment and nutrients, and providing shelter and food for animals. When well-managed, they can also provide corridors along which a variety of different species can move and act as a vital buffer between aquatic ecosystems and the different industrial, agricultural, and residential land uses alongside rivers. To achieve these things, the EWT team replants indigenous vegetation on rehabilitation plots along river systems and encourages farmers to enter into stewardship agreements that commit them to conservation action. These voluntary stewardship agreements encourage private and communal farmers in the area to set land aside for biodiversity conservation and other sustainable land-based activities. In exchange for technical support from EWT, participating landowners dramatically improve ecosystem functioning and the survival chances of a variety of species of plants and animals while also diversifying and stabilising their income base.
Building resilience in the local community, EWT has trained four permanent nursery staff and several members of the community on collecting, storing, and propagating seed, and veld restoration. Local interest in rehabilitating Karoo veld is growing and the team works closely with local farmers and community members to raise awareness and identify priority areas.
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