Urban biotope mapping as framework for spatial planning in Mbombela municipality, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Wilken, Maria Elizabeth Catharina
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Destruction of natural areas in and around cities is taking place at an alarming rate, due to an increase in population densities in urban areas. Urbanization is therefore regarded as one of the most severe impacts on the environment. It follows that environmental protection must be considerably improved in urban areas. In South Africa, little research has been done on biota and their protection in urban environments and therefore urban planners and National and Local Governments are unaware of the biological and ecological value of urban open spaces. Biotope mapping focused on floristic and phytosociological features, as plant studies are relatively easily compared. Biotope studies could enhance urban biodiversity by including bird nesting and feeding guilds as well as the contribution of trees towards carbon storage. Biotope mapping of the vegetation in two Planning Areas namely A (Hazyview - densely populated / rural area) and H (Nelspruit - larger stands / urban area) of Mbombela was studied. The underlying aim of this study was to ensure that biodiversity and ecological aspects are sufficiently included in the planning of specific urban areas in the Mbombela Local Municipality. Ten clearly recognizable and ecologically interpretable plant communities were identified. The plant communities were described by using ordination and classification techniques and were grouped into 4 biotopes. The bird survey indicated that trees in natural open spaces are important for breeding sites and the carbon storage investigation indicated that tall trees with a large biomass are important to conserve. Mapping of specific biotopes were done according to ecological importance values of the vegetation, bird and habitat data. The evaluation of the biotopes indicated that biotopes in natural open spaces had a medium to high ecological value and should be rehabilitated, managed and protected. Recommendations were made according to the findings of this study and anthropogenic influences were incorporated to protect the environment from degradation. Maps of the Planning areas were included.