Native Plant Communities

Native Plant Communities

Project background

This project used the Future Africa campus to explore how to combine native vegetation in public green space that has a positive effect on the local biodiversity and at the same time provide intangible cultural services of sense of place, therapeutic and spiritual respite to the users, as well as tangible provisioning services such as edible and medicinal plants.

Project Leaders

Further information 

In South Africa both native species and edible plants are gaining popularity in niche markets, and more nurseries are growing scarce and local species, however these species are slow to enter public spaces and institutional gardens that can serve as an example to the greater public. Research by Breed (2015; 2016) indicates that provisioning services such as food gardens along with intangible services that include the psychological (sense of place), therapeutic and spiritual value of landscape is largely neglected by designers in South Africa. The neglect of certain values is often the consequence of system optimization or system efficiency, but could lead to a lack of system resilience in the long run (Walker & Salt 2006).

While the literature promotes the inclusion of a greater variety of ecosystem services in multifunctional urban green space areas, very little research has been done on ecosystem services in urban green space areas in South Africa, how these relate to biodiversity and to public perception. Very few guidelines exist for landscape architects and horticulturalists to select plants based on biodiversity or ecosystem service criteria. However, the optimization of plant species selection cannot be achieved in isolation from a specific physical and social context, lest it leads to the narrowing of values (Walker & Salt 2006). The research will seek to clarify possible complex cultural relationships between native biodiversity, intangible cultural services and provisioning services. This could lead to practical decision making guidelines that can be used in module teaching and industry applications.

The research will comprise of two areas that are equally important for future well-being:

  1. increased local biodiversity that provides intangible cultural services (e.g. sense of place, therapeutic and spiritual respite) and
  2. increased local biodiversity that enhances provisioning services (e.g. edible and medicinal plants)