UNESCO has designated the Gouritz region a place of major biodiversity significance for the planet. Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) is a voluntary citizens’ initiative dedicated to conserving the region’s biodiversity for the socioeconomic development and wellbeing of its people, whether on farms, in towns or in businesses. The aim of the GCBR is to support efforts leading to greater social and ecological resilience. To achieve its mission, it designs innovative initiatives and implements practical projects across six core themes: land and landscapes; water resources; biodiversity; economic diversity and livelihoods; knowledge, learning and education; and institutions.
One of GCBR’s most important projects involves the restoration of the Goukou river system using ecologically proactive methods of invasive alien plant management. This catchment contains critically important mountain and coastal fynbos and is one of South Africa’s strategic water source areas. The Goukou Resilient River Project aims to restore the river system from upper catchment to coast. What makes this project different from conventional alien clearing initiatives is its parallel focus, alongside ongoing alien removal, on rehabilitation and re-establishment of indigenous species. GCBR is developing practical guidelines for habitat restoration using trial sites in the catchment, which supports alien clearing actions and offers a more complete habitat restoration approach.