The Baviaanskloof, Kouga, and Tsitsikamma mountains lie in the far eastern portion of the Fynbos and have interesting climatic, floristic and ecological differences from the rest of the Biome. This region also sees a convergence of biomes, with rapid transitions between Fynbos, Grasslands, Forest, Albany Thicket, Nama and Succulent Karoo across differences in soil type, topography and disturbance regime. This makes it a fascinating area for studying biome boundaries and the potential for shifts between biome states. These mountains feed the Kromme, Kouga, and Baviaanskloof Rivers and their catchments are national Strategic Water Source Areas. They are critical for bulk water supply to the city of Port Elizabeth and broader Nelson Mandela Metropol, smaller towns and the surrounding commercial agricultural areas. Droughts and growing water demands have brought catchment management in these areas into sharp focus, with attention paid to the heavy invasion of alien tree species in the Kromme and Kouga, degradation of wetlands particularly in the Kromme, and degradation of Albany Thicket in the Baviaanskloof.
The Fynbos Node’s research in this area largely revolves around hydrological monitoring and modelling in the Baviaanskloof and Kromme catchments to explore the impacts of land use and land cover change and the potential benefits of restorative activities. These two catchments have rainfall and temperature gauging, river water level logging and flow estimation, and shallow and deep groundwater level logging at various locations installed periodically from 2012-2017. Installation and maintenance have been supported through projects and collaborations with the Department of Environmental Affairs Natural Resources Management (DEA-NRM), the Water Research Commission (WRC), and Living Lands. Some of the results have been published in Mander et al. 2017.
We also maintain a set of long term monitoring plots first established in 1991/2 and resurveyed in 2011/2. See Aiello-Lammens et al. 2017 for more details.