Books for Nature Lovers
Bushveld Ecology and Management
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Review By: Environmental Management - November/December 2010

Peet van der Walt says in his Foreword that many questions around the nature and functioning of this dynamic system are unlocked in this book. The book covers many facets of the Bushveld, from its geology, soil patterns, climate, character, special plants and giant trees to its conservation and management for different purposes. The emphasis is on conservation for utilisation, as the bush has always been home to a variety of people. 

In this piece in the introduction, Izak van der Merwe, who has been with the DWAF since 1984, points out that insight is needed to distinguish the 87 bushveld types: "A difference in rainfall of more than 600mm per annum in the Bushveld from the dry west to the moist east, as well as differences in gradient of more than 1 700m between sea level and the interior, are important factors contributing to this diversity. Differences in geology and associated soil types, as well as topography, are often reflected in the kinds of plants and composition of the vegetation...About 5 700 plant species occur in the Bushveld...A greater variety of species of mammals (167), birds (532) and reptiles (161) are found here than in any of the other nine biomes of the country... 40 million hectares of Bushveld cover about one third of the country." 

More than a third of the plants with medicinal value come from the Bushveld and of the thousands of plant species targeted countrywide many are threatened or endemic. Van der Merwe emphasises that the current rate of consumption of medicinal plants countrywide by some 26 million South Africans is unsustainable. 

Seventeen distinguished experts have written pieces for the book, amongst whom are Dr Saloman Joubert who was head of the Kruger National Park and he writes about the ecological conglomerate of the Bushveld; Willem Gertenbach who has been aplant researcher in Kruger since 1970 progressing to Principal Researcher and Head of Conservation Management and he describes the characteristics of Mopane Veld explaining the principles of effective veld management; and Dr Freek Venter, who was a soil specialist and park planner in Kruger and is currently Head of Conservation Management and he elaborates on the geology of the Bushveld. 

Dr George Bredenkamp, currently affiliated to Plant Sciences at the University of Pretoria writes on the riverine vegetation while Noel van Rooyen, who lectures on plant ecology at the same university, writes about the Sour and Arid Bushveld types. There are discussions on the ages of the giant trees of the Bushveld by, amongst others, Johan Barnard of the Dendrological Society and on the properties of Bushveld wood by an authority on the indigenous wooden furniture industry, Tap de Beer. There are sections by established authority Hans Vahrmeijer on poisonous plants and their ecological role and on the food of the veld. Leading fire ecologist, Winston Trollope, discusses the role fire in the veld and fire management. 
Gert Fourie who lives the Waterberg talks about the features of an ideal game farm for conservation and recreation, for hunting and production, for ecotourism and breeding. The value of tourism is discussed by landscape architect Daan Conroy - a pioneer in bush camp aesthetics; while Johan Verhoef, who pioneered a policy for cultural resources at SANParks, writes about man in a Bushveld environment. 

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