Mariepskop Resource Study and Mapping

By Naki Mmposi and Nick Theron
Mariepskop, adjacent to the Blyde River Canyon, is the highest point in the K2C BR at 1944m above sea level. Mariepskop supports a large diversity of life and has some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the Region. The Blyde River Canyon as well as the surrounding escarpment of the Northern Drakensberg is a region very popular with tourists and it has a well-developed tourism industry centred around the iconic panorama route that links to the Lowveld. The mountain temperatures vary in different parts depending on the altitude and the aspect of the sun with temperatures rapidly decreasing with an increase in altitude. 
Mariepskop as part of Mpumalanga Drakensberg makes significant ecosystem service contributions, which underpin human wellbeing especially in terms of water security for downstream users. For example, the Klaserie River, a tributary of the Olifants and part of the Limpopo system has its source on Mariepskop. 
Historically Mariepskop Forest formed part of the Lowveld plantations managed by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) but now due to its importance, forestry no longer takes place and DAFF is managing the area as a forest area.


Due to the areas strategic importance as a water catchment the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Natural Resource Management (NRM) programmes has made considerable investments to clear alien invasive plant species over a period of twenty years. As reported last month there is also now an initiative underway to incorporate these areas into the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and as part of the process a management and restoration plan is being developed. Due to the forestry large portions of these catchments were transformed which has led to the invasion of alien plants into grassland and riparian areas and if these areas become part of a nature reserve they need to be restored. 

“A critical part of our strategy is to ensure that we understand what kind of timber resource is available and how this can best be used as part of a massive effort to restore these escarpment areas.” Jen Newenham, K2C GEF Ecologist said.

In partnership with the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) K2C has commissioned a resource use assessment to do just that. The results of this assessment will be used to identify possible small business opportunities and other value added options for wood that is harvested. This information will be used to carefully map this resource and prioritise areas as part of the restoration plan. This all forms part of the strategy to restore the landscape and ensure the benefits of a healthy catchment can be enjoyed by the people of the region.
“We are grateful to have this baseline information.” Lawrence Mokgakane, Chair of the Blyde Valley4 Trust (umbrella body of all 

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