Monitoring ecosystem change – Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
Ecosystem change and recovery is being monitored at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in the southern Kalahari of South Africa. This monitoring programme documents vegetation cover, structure, diversity and dominance through a fixed point photographic record and via transect-based sampling. There are five major vegetation types at Tswalu and data for each are collected on a 5-year cycle to detect changes.
The programme also involves collaborative research with students from the Plant Conservation Unit at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The first UCT’s Conservation Biology Masters student, Wataru Tokura, contributed to this project in 2016 with a study on vegetation change over the past 15 years. His study investigated the relationship between vegetation productivity trends and potential drivers of change in Tswalu Kalahari Reserve using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI, MOD13Q1).
“Research is a recurring feature of life at Tswalu and continues to both answer and raise questions about the best ways to conserve and restore the southern Kalahari. By adding to our knowledge, we realise more and more what we don’t know, but we are also able to design and implement more effective conservation policies”. Tswalu Foundation.
This programme is supported by the Tswalu Foundation and Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation. Read more about the research they support here.
Change over time
The first set of photos below were taken in the dunes of Tswalu. In 2016 the vegetation cover was sparse due to low rainfall that summer (photo on the left). In 2018 the grass cover was good after higher rainfall (photo right). This shows how dynamic and resilient the vegetation is.
The left photo below was taken in 1935 by Lieutenant WHC Taylor, Deputy Police Commissioner, in the Korannapoort pass on the way to the Dedeben police station. The photo was repeated in 2015 (right photo) to see how the vegetation has changed over the past 80 years.