Towards formalized adaptive management in succulent valley bushveld.
Stuart-Hill, Gregory Colin.
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This study was designed to provide the means for implementing formal scientific vegetation management 1n the succulent valley bushveld of the eastern Cape, South Africa. Nowhere in the world has a detailed, effective and practical veld management system being developed entirely from research, and even the most successful management systems rely heavily on the intuition of people. A process, formally called 'adaptive management', combines this intuition with scientific testing and the overall objective of this study was to provide a framework for formalized adaptive management in succulent valley bushveld. On analyzing the process of adaptive management, the following knowledge 'tools' were identified: (i) a management system for immediate implementation; (ii) a technique for vegetation assessment; (iii) a technique for monitoring vegetation change; (iv) a technique for monitoring forage use and recovery; (v) a list of key forage species; (vi) a model to set initial stocking rates; (vii) a method of recording essential information; and (viii) a database of ecological principles. Providing these 'tools' became the goals of this study. These topics covered almost all facets of rangeland science, and the approach was to address these in a 'top down' manner, rather than sub-optimize by specializing on anyone component. Most of the 'tools' were achieved to a greater or lesser extent and are presented as a series of publications. However, a central tool, that for monitoring vegetation change, remains outstanding despite comprehensive testing of a range of traditional botanical methods. Indeed, critical review revealed that this 'missing tool' is a problem which is common in all vegetation communities in South Africa - despite the impression created by vegetation researchers that adequate techniques are indeed available. This is serious because land managers are not able to evaluate the impact of their efforts and the government is unable to monitor the effectiveness of their research and extension services, costing millions of public monies annually. The implication also, is that vegetation cannot be managed scientifically (management implies monitoring). Either formal adaptive management is not practicable, or researchers are operating from an inappropriate paradigm; specifically that of providing techniques for their research projects and claiming that these (or derivatives of these) are adequate for farm or regional scale monitoring. More generally, research has often become an end in it's self, with research quality being judged by criteria which are of little significance to the real world and which damage efficiency. Perhaps, the real value of vegetation research lies in the experiential learning which the researcher gains not the inevitably parochial results.