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Field surveys and revegetation experiments show that simulation of topographical habitat features could improve the chances of successful restoration for the threatened succulent Juttadinteria albata
- LineekelaOmwene T. Nauyoma, Theo D. Wassenaar, John K. E. Mfune, Cornelis van der Waal, Ezekeil G. Kwembeya
- Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.4 pp. 730-737
- cacti and succulents, ecosystems, extinction, field experimentation, habitat destruction, habitats, land restoration, mining, rare species, risk, surveys
- Species with highly restricted ranges are disproportionately at risk of extinction, particularly where habitat loss occurs as a result of mining. Postmining restoration of rare species populations is considered as an appropriate response to counter such threats, but requires a careful, evidence‐based, and information‐driven approach. The economically important diamond mining at Sendelingsdrif in the southern Namib Desert occurs in the highly diverse Succulent Karoo Biome and threatens a significant part of the population of the narrow endemic succulent plant species Juttadinteria albata. To decrease the inherent risks of restoring such a rare species, we studied the habitat features of premining J. albata populations and experimentally tested whether some features could assist future reintroductions in postmining substrates. Plots where J. albata occurred were mostly south‐ to west‐facing and had among others higher rock cover and steeper slopes than plots where J. albata plants were absent. A revegetation experiment, with J. albata cuttings that were established on postmining substrate mounds, revealed that plants on steeper slopes, facing south to west, grew faster than plants on other slopes and aspects. Slope and aspect are therefore important habitat properties to recreate when restoring J. albata populations. These, and other preferred habitat properties such as higher levels of organic C, should now be tested in larger‐scale field trials. Validation of habitat requirements of J. albata through the revegetation experiment has decreased the risks at least partially and provides additional empirical evidence of the importance of establishing reference conditions to enhance ecological restoration.