LOOK: Exploring the benefits of Durban’s Metropolitan Open Space System

D’MOSS provides a unique opportunity to conserve many of South Africa’s threatened ecosystems. File picture: pasja1000/Pixabay

D’MOSS provides a unique opportunity to conserve many of South Africa’s threatened ecosystems. File picture: pasja1000/Pixabay

Published Mar 22, 2023


The Durban Metropolitan Open Space System or D’MOSS as it is more widely known, currently occupies around 940 square kilometres of green and wild spaces in and around Durban.

It is a spatial layer of interconnecting open spaces in public, private and traditional authority ownership that seeks to protect the biodiversity and associated ecosystem services of Durban.

Paradise Valley, Burman Bush and Kenneth Stainbank Reserves are examples of D’MOSS, but it also includes large rural landscapes in the upper catchments and riverine and coastal corridors.

D’MOSS is mapped by the Biodiversity Planning Branch of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) of the eThekwini Municipality in consultation with relevant experts.

According to the eThekwini Municipality, the system includes approximately 2 400 hectares of estuarine environment, 14 000 hectares of forests including dune, coastal and scarp forests, 7 500 hectares of wetlands, 13 000 hectares of grassland including the threatened KZN Sandstone Sourveld Grasslands and 40 000 hectares of dry valley thicket.

D’MOSS provides a unique opportunity to conserve many of South Africa’s threatened ecosystems and species, including the endangered KZN Sandstone Sourveld grasslands, the critically endangered Brachystelma natalense, a small herbal plant, and the endangered Oribi, Spotted Ground Thrush and Pickersgill’s Reed Frog.

If properly protected and managed, D’MOSS will assist the province and the country in meeting international biodiversity conservation targets.

Apart from contributing to the attainment of provincial and national biodiversity conservation targets, D’MOSS provides a range of services to all residents of Durban, including the formation of soil, erosion control, water supply and regulation, climate regulation, cultural and recreational opportunities, raw materials for craft and building, food production, pollination, nutrient cycling and waste treatment.

From a climate adaptation perspective, the biodiversity that is protected within these natural open spaces plays an equally important role.

For example, the impacts of sea level rise can be reduced by ensuring the protection of well-vegetated foredunes and setting coastal developments back from vulnerable areas.

Increased flood events can be moderated by ensuring that wetlands and floodplains are protected, and where necessary, rehabilitated.

Predicted increased temperatures can also be alleviated by D’MOSS as vegetated areas assist with cooling.

D’MOSS also plays a substantial role in climate change mitigation, with recent research finding that Durban’s green spaces store the equivalent of around 24 million tons of carbon dioxide while sucking up an additional 36 000 tons of carbon dioxide per annum.

A Work Bank report completed in 2017 shows that natural and semi-natural systems within the eThekwini Municipal Area give rise to flows of ecosystem services worth at least R4.2 billion per year.

Without these free services, the municipality would require an unaffordable increase to its budget to provide these services, especially in rural areas, where communities rely heavily on the natural environment for daily needs.

The Biodiversity Impact Assessment Branch of the EPCPD is responsible for assessing, and in some cases, regulating development that is proposed within or adjacent to D’MOSS to ensure that biodiversity is protected and the supply of ecosystem goods and services is maintained.

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