The South African National Biodiversity Assessment, 2011 cites some of the drivers of outright habitat loss to be cultivation, urban/infrastructure-development and some forms of mining while overgrazing, alien plants invasions, inappropriate fire regimes and fragmentation of habitat are forms of land and habitat degradation.
The Magaliesberg Biosphere borders on the economic hub of South Africa, which increases the population and development pressure on the region, which results in land-use-change where both habitat loss and habitat degradation are a reality. This, together with poaching and unsustainable harvesting of plants and trees, pollution and waste, the degradation of aquatic ecosystems and climate change further stress the biosphere landscape.
The remoteness and scenic beauty of our biosphere and its proximity to three urban centres, has attracted development of country housing estates, tourist venues and associated business and infrastructure, as well as a growing demand for low-cost accommodation in informal settlements that are mostly poorly-serviced. Besides outright habitat loss, the encroachment of some of these developments on untransformed areas results in fragmentation of habitat where areas are reduced to sizes no longer viable to support certain species, often the mega-fauna and sensitive flora.
It is a reality that a substantial proportion of the adult population of South Africa is unemployed, so poverty is rife. Hence important economic development by mining and industry is encouraged in our national and provincial Integrated Development Plans and continues to grow in this area, with the wealth of platinum group metals that occur on the northern boundary of the biosphere. The biosphere experiences pressure when mining and prospecting applications for heavy metals, silica sand and granite encroach into the biosphere, because they result in extreme and unsightly modifications to the landscape, which is contrary to the type of economic activity that is envisaged for the biosphere – one that encourages sustainable tourism and a vibrant economy around the conservation estate.
These circumstances are challenging for both conservation and the socio-economic well being of communities within the biosphere.