Creating future forest eco-systems through the reforestation program of Trees for Tourism, is not only about trees.
Forest eco-systems provide essential shelter and food for a plethora of creatures of all kinds. Many animal and bird species depend on indigenous forest and woodland as their only viable habitat.
The further the –presently three- reforestation sites of Trees for Tourism mature and develop, the more wildlife it will attract, shelter and provide with food.
From inside the forest floor to the highest little branch in the canopy, each layer represents a habitat for different species of animals.
On the forest floor, snails make compost by feasting on organic matter and porcupines loosen the soil by digging for bulbs and roots. Bushbuck nibble on fresh new shoots of the undergrowth in the middle of a large concentration of insects .
In the understorey, bees nest in tree-hollows which in turn attract the honey badger aiming for the larvae of the bees. In the canopy, birds of all sorts eat the berries of trees, preyed upon by the “boomslang” and other snakes.
Baboons prefer indigenous forest for overnight shelter, though nightblind as they are still an easy prey for the leopard.
We are losing our forests in a rapid pace and the consequences are dire. As the World Resources Institute concludes : “Over the past 150 years deforestation has contributed to an estimated 30% of the atmospheric build-up of CO2. Deforestation is also a significant driving force behind the loss of genes, species and critical eco-systems.
Forests provide essential services for mankind. Forests produce clean air, pure water and rich soil. Forests prevent erosion, desertification and floods. Forests help to maintain earth’s biodiversity and to regulate the temperature of the earth. Not least of all, forests create a sanctuary for man.
The two 400 year old Cape hollies pictured here, have so far each created 25’000 kg of molecular oxygen and as such supplied one person with oxygen for her whole life. Since 1615 the roots of these Cape hollies have drawn up 20 million liters of water, which was released through evaporation and deposited as rain on the land.
Trees store carbon. A pristine forest eco-system however also stores substantial quantities of carbon in the forest floor: leaf litter, mulch and compost. Each and any tree in a healthy forest will be replaced by another when it dies and falls over, maintaining the average carbon storage capacity of the forest as a whole. That’s why it makes more sense to participate in reforestation than just to plant a tree somewhere.
And in South Africa, storing carbon we must. The CO2 emissions of South Africa are equal to those of the whole of the rest of the South African continent.
How much carbon will be stored by a certain forest, depends on numerous variables. But if a person plants roughly 350 reforestation-trees during her lifetime, she will have been a carbon-neutral member of her household.
The Reflections Eco Reserve near Wilderness plants indigenous trees in clearings close to alien trees in order for the young indigenous trees to be protected against wind and harsh midday sun. When the indigenous trees have reached a certain maturity and independence, the alien trees are felled.
Farm 215 Private Nature Reserve in the Overberg has cleared and burnt the whole reforestation site from alien species before any planting of indigenous trees took place. Indigenous trees are planted out in close density so that the juvenile indigenous trees can shelter each other and to force upright growth.
All three sites are near water. Reflections Eco Reserve borders the Rondevlei Lake. The reforestation sites of Grootvadersbosch and Farm 215 flank streams running down from mountain catchment areas. Reforestation is a means to stream-bank rehabilitation, improving the water quality, preventing further erosion of the stream-banks and slowing down seasonal run-off of water.
Since reforestation will only take place in degraded areas, no pristine nature will be sacrificed. Reforestation will not take place on land suitable or earmarked for agriculture and hence will not collide with food production.