On International Mountain Day let us think about how important mountain ecosystems are.
Almost one billion people live in mountain areas, and over half the human population depends on mountains for water, food and clean energy. Yet mountains are under threat from climate change, land degradation, over exploitation and natural disasters, with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for mountain communities and the rest of the world.
Mountain environments cover some 27% of the world’s land surface, and directly support the 22% of the world’s people who live within mountain regions.
What are mountains? They are described as high landforms with steep sides. A mountain is the result of land being pushed together over millions of years.
In Gauteng some lucky smallholders living in Broederstroom, Mooinooi, Skeerpoort, Hekpoort, Maanhaarrand, Hartbeeshoek and Pecanwood live in sight of the Magaliesberg mountain range.
Gautengers are particularly proud of the Magaliesberg, which stretches for over 120 kilometres, separating the Highveld grasslands to the south, from the bushveld savannah of the north.
The Magaliesberg mountains are amongst the oldest in the world and they support a rich biodiversity (the Aloe Peglerae and Frithia pulchra are unique to this area). The bird life in the mountains and the surrounds is almost unparalleled ~ apparently 46.6% of southern Africa’s bird species live here.
Because of their uniqueness the mountains are a pivotal feature in the recently proclaimed Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve that protects 360 000 hectares between Pretoria, Johannesburg and Rustenburg.
The Magaliesberg region is recognised as the birthplace of mankind, and visitors from all over the world head to Maropeng, the visitor centre at the Cradle of Humankind.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live on smallholdings in this area and the rest of us who visit the region have a special duty to do what we can to preserve this precious and precarious ecosystem, by conserving water, buying local food, planting local trees, picking up waste and recycling.