Wetland craft plants in KwaZulu-Natal: An ecological review of harvesting impacts and implications for sustainable utilization
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, P.O. Box 394, 3290 Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; Centre for Environment, Agriculture and Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, 3209 Scotteville, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, P.O. Box 13053, 3202 Cascades, South Africa
In South Africa, wetland plants have been used for centuries and they continue to be harvested for subsistence and commercial purposes. Fibres for crafts are collected by cutting the aboveground parts. KwaZulu-Natal is one of the major basket-producing regions in southern Africa and at least twenty-two species of wetland plants are harvested for crafts. A literature review of the harvested species revealed that the impacts of cutting have only been extensively investigated for Phragmites australis (Cav.) Steud. and Juncus kraussii Hochst. The review suggested that, where plants display strong seasonal aboveground productivity patterns, cutting should take place after shoot senescence and before new shoot emergence to minimize damage to plants. Cutting in the short term could increase the density of green stems. However, in the long term in Phragmites australis, it may deplete the rhizome reserves and reduce the density of useable (longer and thicker) culms. The opportunity for sustainable harvests was investigated by considering the geographic distribution, whether species are habitat specific or not, and local population sizes of the craft plants. Juncus kraussii is of the greatest conservation concern. Ecologically sustainable wetland plant harvesting could contribute to the wise use of wetlands, an approach promoted nationally and internationally.
Juncus kraussii; Phragmites australis