Editor's note

The mandate for this magazine is to keep our members and supporters informed on the biodiversity of our area in an easily readable and informative manner. We do so by asking local experts to write for us on topics they are passionate about and this issue is no exception.

As a conservancy we are often critical of the authorities in the face of the ongoing degradation of our environment and this is often justified as evidenced for example by the parlous state of all the rivers in eThekwini. There is however a lot of good work being done behind the scenes and it is important and appropriate that we recognise this.

In this issue we have included an article by Cameron McLean a senior ecologist with the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department in which he outlines the impact of urbanization on our biodiversity and explains some of the significant work that has been done to quantify the biodiversity of eThekwini through a process known as the Systematic Conservation Assessment. Put simplistically this looks at our biomes and tries to establish a picture of what we had in the past, what we have at present and what we should have for each biome to survive. It makes for fascinating reading even if some of it generates serious concerns particularly in the case of the grassland biome which is most probably beyond the point of salvage!

Within this context we asked a colleague of Cameron’s, Lyle Ground to write specifically about our most threatened biome, our grasslands. Lyle explains with the help of some stunning photographs why this biome is so important and some of the simple things we can all do to protect what is left.

The detailed studies and hard work being done by professionals like Cameron and Lyle are typical of the commitment of scientists who keep out of the limelight and do their work without any fanfare. Our Eco-impi interviewee for this edition typifies this spirit. The study of plants is a fascinating subject but most of us either take plants for granted or do not rate them with the same degree of interest as say mammals, birds or dare I say it even reptiles! Neil Crouch has dedicated his career to studying plants and his training in bio-chemistry and botany enables him see what most of us are unable to even imagine about the fascinating lives of plants!

In this edition we conclude our feature on the orchids of the Upper Highway with the second article from orchid expert Hendrelien Peters. Arend Hoogervorst as usual pricks at our environmental conscience with his opinion column which features our usage of the new liquid gold, water. Robin Lamplough reminds us of our sense of place and history with his article on Sir Andrew Smith considered by many as the father of “South African zoology”.

We wrap-up this edition with our three regular species authors, Steve Woodhall (butterflies), Peter Spence (birds) and Pat McKrill (reptiles) who never fail to educate and entertain us. Following on the last issue where they wrote on what their species eat, their brief for this issue was “what do your species fall prey to” and their articles will enlighten and surprise most readers!

I trust you will enjoy this edition and as always your feedback is most welcome.

Paolo Candotti