Sperrgebiet wildflower guide now available as e-book

01 October 2020 | Environment

Windhoek • Antje Burke

The south-west corner of Namibia not only harbours diamonds but something equally precious – the only large, continuous piece of the Succulent Karoo Biome which has not been altered by livestock grazing.
The Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park protects this piece of Succulent Karoo and its exceptional biodiversity. The park has not only the highest plant diversity among Namibia’s parks, but also the highest number of plant species which only occur there and nowhere else on earth.
These endemic species deserve particular attention because of their limited geographical range and numbers. Many are restricted to very special habitats within their already limited range. Any mining, infrastructure, tourism or other developments need to take this into account.
A good knowledge of the park’s plant life and its habitats is therefore essential, particularly its endemics. Alas, due to the high plant diversity in the park overall, most endemics are not easy to spot. Thus natural resource managers such as conservation and environmental officers face a tremendous challenge and may give up in despair.
Illustrated field guides are the most accessible form of learning to identify the flora. The two existing field guides (Burke 2003, Mannheimer et al. 2008) cover common plants in the park, but include only few endemics.

Move to modern media
While hard copy books have their place, plant identification has moved towards modern media in the form of websites, apps and open access publications.
With the support of the Namibian Chamber of Environment, this e-book focuses on identifying the endemic plants of the park, giving conservation officers a much-needed tool and, with some practice, will enable them to recognise the most restricted plant species in the park.
The e-book illustrates each of the over 60 species with photographs or sketches. It further gives a description of the plant, a map of its distribution and, to aid identification, highlights similar-looking species by naming important differences.
Although this e-book is about plants, reading it will not require a degree in botany. I have written this for non-specialists and I have limited technical terms as far as possible. I have also included an illustrated glossary for terms that could not be avoided.
Apart from serving an immediate need within the environment ministry, this e-book is open access and therefore in the public domain. It will thus also be available to students, young professionals, tour operators, environmental practitioners and anybody with an interest in Namibia’s fascinating flora. It is available for downloading on Namibia’s Environmental Information Service (EIS) at http://the-eis.com/elibrary/search/23084.

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