The Landscape Conservation Programme is dedicated to the conservation of South Africa’s indigenous, endemic and threatened bird species and their most important sites and ecosystems, based on scientific research, management and stakeholder engagement. BirdLife South Africa’s Landscape Conservation Programme has a staff complement of nine permanent employees, two interns and several contractors.
A focused five year (2022-2026) conservation strategy guides the Landscape Conservation Programme’s (LCP) work. At a global level, the work undertaken by the LCP speaks to the four pillars set out by BirdLife International, i.e. to save species with the objectives to prevent the extinction of threatened species, to keep common birds common, conserve sites and habitats, as well as to promote ecological sustainability and positive change for people. The LCP’s vision is to conserve diverse and sustainable bird populations, through the preservation and protection of the most critical habitats for birds, recognising the crucial role that birds play in maintaining balanced terrestrial ecosystems.
The Landscape Conservation Programme’s (LCP’s) vision is to see our country’s most threatened natural landscapes and the important services they provide sustainably managed and protected to support diverse, resilient populations of birds and other biodiversity, so that future generations continue to enjoy and benefit from the ecological services they provide.
The LCP’s mission is to support the protection and recovery of terrestrial bird populations and to identify and facilitate the improved protection and management of a network of ecologically important sites, to promote the equitable use of natural resources, though scientifically-based projects, and by encouraging people to enjoy and value nature.
Where needed, sound scientific research and/or monitoring are undertaken on a selected number of threatened terrestrial birds in order to determine reasons for their conservation status and measures needed to reverse negative population trends.
The primary threats to birds and other biodiversity, both in South Africa and abroad, are habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. The main factors underlying habitat loss and degradation include alien invasive species expansion, overgrazing, agricultural and industrial expansion, incorrect fire regimes, pollution, alterations to water courses and declining water quality (Marnewick et al. 2015, Taylor et al. 2017).
There are a number of key challenges that contribute to the above threats. Approximately 60% of the Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBA) network is unprotected, leaving these sites vulnerable to habitat transformation and mismanagement. Habitats within many IBAs are poorly managed, leading to habitat degradation, especially in unprotected sites. The LCP is actively engaged in the new role-out of the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) network which will replace the IBA network and will guide the priority sites for conservation of high biodiversity landscapes in South Africa going forward.
Biodiversity Stewardship provides the most effective and efficient tools and mechanisms to conserve privately owned land in IBAs and soon to be KBAs. Through biodiversity stewardship, the LCP and former IBA Programme have played leading roles in the declaration of 150 000 hectares of privately protected areas (as legislated in the Protected Areas Act), and an additional 35 000 hectares of conservation areas across South Africa. The LCP is also leading in the roll-out of Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) which are a critical part of South Africa’s ability to reach the proposed target of 30 by 30 – 30% of all high biodiversity value lands conserved by 2030.
The LCP currently has several focus areas across South Africa where our conservation efforts are focused to generate maximum impact for the conservation of sites and species.
These focus areas are:
- The Grasslands: conservation and stewardship work is currently being conducted in the Upper Wilge, Sneeuberg and Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environments with focus species including the several threatened, endemic passerines (Yellow-breasted Pipit, Rudd’s & Botha’s Larks), Secretarybird, Southern Bald Ibis and the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail.
- The Western Cape Estuaries and Fynbos: the project looks to formally protect and improve conservation action at 12 priority estuaries within IBAs in the Western Cape and monitor the habitat quality and bird populations within these sites using biodiversity stewardship with an expanded focus into securing and appropriately managing the catchments of these estuaries.
- Northern Zululand: with the declaration of the Zululand IBA in 2019, more effort is being put into conservation efforts within the broader landscape through the implementation of a Vulture Safe Zone, avitourism development and coastal forest restoration to benefit the unique avifauna found in this biodiversity hotspot such as the Critically Endangered Southern Banded Snake Eagle.
The LCP is broken into two workstreams which focus on carrying out our important conservation work across the terrestrial landscape:
- The Protecting Ecosystems workstream aims to identify, protect and facilitate the appropriate management and sustainable use of South Africa’s most important natural ecosystems to the benefit of birds, biodiversity and communities. At its core, the Protecting Ecosystems team aims to secure natural sites that are important for birds and improve the conservation status of these areas. This objective is achieved by supporting landowners and communities through the Biodiversity Stewardship process and awareness campaigns about the importance of suitable and equitable use of natural resources.
- The Protecting Species workstream aims to prioritise the conservation of South Africa’s most threatened terrestrial and freshwater birds through scientifically robust conservation interventions that target the mitigation of species-specific threats (e.g. lead poisoning in vultures).