Land transformation in the Karkloof catchment between 1944 and 1999 : towards a database for future planning.
Land transformation in the Karkloof Catchment (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) between 1944 and 1999 was examined. No research had previously been undertaken to quantify and obtain an understanding of these changes and their effect on the landscape. The study provides a valuable spatial and descriptive database, which could assist in future planning and in an improved management of the catchment. Land category maps and associated databases for 1944 and 1999 were produced by interpreting 1944 and 1996 aerial photographs and using a Geographical Information System (GIS). Land management changes were established primarily by interviews with land-owners. Property ownership and extent were ascertained and mapped in GIS by utilising and adapting existing GIS databases, by interviews with land-owners, and by undertaking title deed searches and by analysis of property Grant outlines and diagrams. Natural grasslands have decreased significantly, being lost mostly to exotic afforestation and marginally to commercial cultivation. Forest and woodland have increased marginally, as has exotic vegetation. Subsistence cultivation has been reduced significantly with very little being undertaken in 1999. Farm dams have increased in number and size. Extraction of indigenous timber from the Karkloof Forest has ceased. Soil erosion, which was determined by summing the surface area of soil erosion gullies (bare soil area), has decreased. Property numbers have increased, whilst property sizes have decreased. Ownership has moved away from the predominantly 'Private Individual' ownership category towards 'Private Companies and Trusts' and towards large corporate companies. Reduction in farm size has contributed to maximisation of land use, which has often impacted negatively on natural resources. Land-owners are however becoming more environmentally conscious. More sustainable farming methods are being practised. Catchment management bodies have been established. Traditional land use types such as agriculture are slowly declining, whilst recreational, residential and tourism ventures are on the increase. Demand for land and its products will continue to increase and more pressure will be exerted on natural resources. Ways to live with nature, sensitively balancing development against the environment will need to be found. Recommendations have been made regarding the further application of the study, particularly the GIS database, catchment management bodies and integrated catchment management, property size and land use types. Various conservation recommendations are also given.