UR­BAN COUR­SES BEN­E­FIT BIO­DI­VER­SITY

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Gallery - Char­lie Shack­le­ton and Mitchell Jar­rett De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Science, Rhodes Univer­sity, Gra­ham­stown

Ur­ban ar­eas are di cult places for wild plants and an­i­mals to thrive, de­spite ev­i­dence that their pres­ence pro­motes the sus­tain­abil­ity and live­abil­ity of ur­ban set­tings.While au­thor­i­ties ex­pend pub­lic nances to pro­vide green spa­ces, trees and na­ture ar­eas, in grow­ing cities there is de­mand to con­vert these into built-up ar­eas. Most pub­lic green spa­ces are small.

In con­trast, golf pro­vides larger ar­eas of green space of which size­able por­tions are out-of-play ar­eas with low hu­man im­pact. And golf clubs have the bud­get to sus­tain them.This makes them im­por­tant ar­eas for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion within cities.

Golf clubs sur­veyed in Eng­land re­ported a higher num­ber and species of birds, bees, bee­tles and trees than in neigh­bour­ing farm­land.With this in mind we sought to in­ves­ti­gate whether bio­di­ver­sity is part of the re­mit of lo­cal golf course ob­jec­tives and con­cerns by vis­it­ing sev­eral clubs in the Eastern Cape.

The av­er­age size of Eastern Cape ur­ban cour­ses is 34 hectares; the area of 43 cour­ses be­ing 1 461 hectares.Two-thirds com­prise rough and treed ar­eas be­tween fair­ways.Thus, of a typ­i­cal 34ha course, 22ha ex­pe­ri­ences lit­tle gol ng ac­tiv­ity.

On 12 cour­ses we ex­am­ined veg­e­ta­tion in the rough and wooded ar­eas, and found the num­ber of tree and shrub species ranged from eight to 28; in­dige­nous species from zero to 86%. Ev­ery course had non-in­dige­nous species, in­clud­ing at least one in­va­sive alien which un­der cur­rent leg­is­la­tion has to be re­moved. Two cour­ses had up to six such species.

The num­ber of di er­ent tree and shrub species per course was pos­i­tively re­lated to e orts to pro­mote in­dige­nous species, the num­ber of mem­bers and course sta , and ex­pe­ri­ence of green­keep­ers. Wealth­ier clubs haven anci al re­sources which can con­trib­ute to bet­ter bio­di­ver­sity out­comes.

We in­ter­viewed the course man­ager or green­keeper at each of the 12 cour­ses. Half self-rated them­selves as hav­ing none (33%) or lit­tle (17%) un­der­stand­ing of the term ‘bio­di­ver­sity’ and the other half had a mod­er­ate (17%) or good (33%) un­der­stand­ing.

Ir­re­spec­tive, all agreed that ur­ban cour­ses can play a role in bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion. Asked to rank the im­por­tance of high plant di­ver­sity on cour­ses, 59% be­lieved it im­por­tant, 33% of medium im­por­tance, and 8% not im­por­tant. None had re­ceived any for­mal train­ing on bio­di­ver­sity. Most ob­tained in­for­ma­tion about course man­age­ment from mag­a­zines, the in­ter­net and word of mouth, and lamented that much of it came from Europe and North Amer­ica.There was lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about bio­di­ver­sity.

Three of the 12 cour­ses had bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion ob­jec­tives in place, fo­cus­ing on the re­moval of non-na­tive veg­e­ta­tion and in­creas­ing na­tive trees. Eight green­keep­ers re­sponded pos­i­tively when asked if they would like more done to pro­mote bio­di­ver­sity. Chal­lenges in­cluded money, lim­ited water and “more com­mit­ted man­age­ment.”

Our re­sults show lim­ited un­der­stand­ing but will­ing­ness. Be­sides the aes­thetic ap­peal high plant di­ver­sity brings to a course, some green­keep­ers are aware of how it may con­trib­ute to a health­ier ecosys­tem. Course man­agers should seek ad­vice from quali ed and ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sion­als or con­ser­va­tion agen­cies.As a start­ing point, we rec­om­mend: ▶ Dis­cuss bio­di­ver­sity within the club com­mit­tee and com­mit to be­com­ing a bio­di­ver­sity friendly course. ▶ Iden­tify and re­move in­va­sive alien plants. ▶ Pro­mote in­dige­nous species. ▶ Limit dis­tur­bance to out-of-play ar­eas. ▶ Leave dead trees un­less they pose a dan­ger to golfers. ▶ Im­ple­ment am­phib­ian friendly fringes to water fea­tures. ▶ Min­imise use of pes­ti­cides. ▶ Pro­vide bird nest boxes. ▶ Tag the names of trees in prom­i­nent places.

Na­ture thrives at El­e­ments Pri­vate Re­serve in Lim­popo.

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