Pippin Anderson, Georgina Avlonitis and Henrik Ernstson has just published a paper that compares the ecological effects of green space rehabilitation projects by experts and civics in Cape Town (paper). The paper contributes to urban ecology, and natural resource management—but also to ‘environmental stewardship’ studies, and debates around expertise.
Trough the landscape ecological field work by Georgina Avlonitis (now at ICLEI Cape Town), they generated data from sites in the city that had been rehabilitated by expert biologists on one hand, and civic organisations on the other. To this they also added one site that had been under conservation management since long, and one site that had not been exposed to any management but was considered ‘degraded’ by the city’s nature conservation managers. The study suggests with data on biodiversity and pollinating insects that civic led intervention can be equally as effective in restoring biodiversity and landscape ecological functions.
By emphasizing the ecological outcomes, this study highlights the importance of civil society in linking conservation goals to more broad-based notions of quality of life and the ‘good and just city’. Our results indicate that civic-led efforts warrant attention in keeping with those of experts, both in relation to meeting indigenous conservation targets, as well as supporting functional groups and wider ecological processes, with the acknowledged exception of fire.
The study also contributes, although implicitly, to debates around ‘who is in the know’ in urban ecology. It could be used to discuss and open up the notion of ‘re-distribution of expertise’ as discussed by for instance human geographer Sarah Whatmore.