Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Tshwane

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Tshwane

Project background

This project monitors the survival of native plant palettes in urban contexts, and explores to what degree these native plants contribute to biodiversity, sense of place and food production. The programme has implemented two projects thus far: one project (200 sqm patch area) is part of the Future Africa Research Complex on the University of Pretoria experimental farm; the second project (100 sqm patch area) is part of the Javett Art Centre and Mapungubwe Collection Museum on Lynnwood street. These two projects have typical urban conditions of small patch sizes that are fairly isolated. The aim of the projects is to clarify the degree to which size, selection and combination of native species can lead to the development of low risk planting palettes with pre-identified survival, sense of place, maintenance and biodiversity outcomes. In line with previous research findings by the author, the research aims to answer two questions: How to select native vegetation in urban contexts to increase local biodiversity and contribute to: a) intangible cultural services of sense of place b) tangible provisioning services such as edible plants and medicinal plants. In cooperation with plant growers, plants were selected for the two biodiversity gardens in 2017-2018, consisting of native and near native species of the Tshwane region that could be sourced, monitored and tested. In addition the group identified several indicators for measurement: 1. Soil moisture (ecosystem function) 2. Soil organic matter (ecosystem function) 3. Plant health/ performance (survival and practicality): general growth and health; tolerant against extreme temperature and moisture; procreation (seed and vegetative production) 4. Insect diversity and abundance (biodiversity) 5. User + client + caretaker + expert perceptions (sense of place) 6. Any maintenance/ interference (self-sufficiency and resilience)

Project Leaders

Further information 

While the literature promotes the inclusion of a greater variety of ecosystem services in multi-functional urban green space areas, very little research has been done on ecosystem services in urban green space areas in South Africa, how these relate to biodiversity and to public perception. Very few guidelines exist for landscape architects and horticulturalists to select plants based on biodiversity or ecosystem service criteria. 

The project is in its beginning stages and will be measured for a minimum period of five to ten years. The aim is to incorporate researchers across UP interested in biodiversity, ecosystem services and native species in the measurement of the project.

This project is funded by the NRF and the UP RDP programme.

Principal researcher: Dr C A Breed, Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture.


Research collaborators: Prof Catherine Sole, Department of Zoology; Prof Christian Pirk, Department of Zoology.

Implementation collaborators: Dr J Wentzel, Wildflower nursery; Ivan van der Walt, Diverse Ecological Solutions; Insite Group landscape architects, Werner Venter; Green Inc landscape architects, Wouter Labuschagne.