Reversing biodiversity loss through restoration

Reversing biodiversity loss through restoration

By Grant Forbes

While big goals are set on international platforms to prevent further loss of biodiversity, organisations like the ORCT are working tirelessly to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity at ground level with landowners and stakeholders.

With the support of WWF South Africa and other partners, the ORCT has secured a number of conservation easements and together with landowners, we are changing the trajectory of these sites, ensuring that these corridors and remnants continue to function and become more resilient. The resilience of these areas is very important in the face of global change and the consistent anthropogenic impacts from surrounding land use.


The ORCT has been implementing site management with landowners since 2015. This includes restoring degraded areas along watercourses. Watercourses are well-known as biodiversity corridors in fragmented landscapes.

The story of the Ouka River

One such story revolves around the lovely Ouka River, west of Swellendam in the Overberg. Restoration started on the site in 2017 and was ramped up since 2020 to test and determine viable methods to restore degraded areas. A number of novel low-tech techniques are being piloted, and we are seeing some good preliminary results.

Based on restoration in other similar habitats, we have used restoration hollows (similar to swales), brush packing and testing different soil covers with varying results. The restoration hollows, used widely in the Karoo, allow the soil to rehydrate, capturing up to 50 L of runoff water per rainfall event. These hollows are then brush-packed with local material which traps seeds, provides cover for seedlings to germinate but also helps with the retention of moisture. Hollows are seeded with a mix of local pioneer grasses and shrubs.