The effects of invasive alien plants on cultural ecosystem services : tourism and recreation

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

With the continued spread of invasive alien vegetation in South Africa, there is a growing need and recognition in protecting ecosystem service delivery. While most literature on ecosystem services has focussed on provisioning and supporting services, this study looks at the less addressed cultural ecosystem services, specifically focussing on tourism and recreation. This research explores the relationship between tourism and invasive alien vegetation. This was carried out at firstly a national level, utilising primarily quantitative methods to identify, and map alien vegetation overlaps with key tourist sites in South Africa. This was followed by a more in-depth qualitative analysis, at a case study level, focussed on the Stellenbosch municipality, to determine the understanding and perceptions, tourists, landowners, and tourism operators have regarding invasive alien plants. Moderate to high levels of infestation were found overlapping various key tourism destinations across the country. The most heavily impacted provinces include the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. In certain areas, invasion levels at key tourist destinations raise concerns regarding the management of these sites. The findings of this research signify a close link and definite relationship between tourism, and invasive alien vegetation. Looking specifically at tourism as a cultural ecosystem service, and the relationship this service has with invasive alien vegetation, future studies need to recognise the significance of this association, while the broader tourism industry needs to recognise the potential threats invasive alien vegetation poses to their operations. Furthermore, this research identifies the value in combining qualitative, human dimensions, with quantitative data and mapping approaches in ecosystem services research.

Includes bibliographical references.