NCT – Lenjane – Steve Germishuizen

Forests in the mist – protecting life on the edge

Celebrating International Day of Forests with NCT Forestry Agricultural Co-Operative

South Africa’s Mistbelt forests are relatively species-rich and would once have been found in the fire shadow habitats of higher altitude slopes from Limpopo and Mpumalanga, through KwaZulu-Natal and into the Eastern Cape. Many of these Mistbelt forests were decimated by early settlers to meet the country’s increasing demand for wood before commercial forestry was introduced into South Africa.

As a result of fire dominated landscapes and pre-commercial forestry demand for timber, South Africa’s Mistbelt forests are highly fragmented, making them more susceptible to external pressures,” explains Craig Norris, NCT Forestry Agricultural Co-Operative’s Forest Technology Manager. He continues, “we are seeing increasing levels of fore damage around forest margins, linked to the changes in weather patterns we are currently experiencing. With the remaining Mistbelt forests being in fragmented patches you naturally have a greater area of forest margins than you would if it was one continuous ecosystem. This makes them even more susceptible to these changes. It is therefore extremely important for landowners with patches of these forests to protect and manage these areas for conservation and biodiversity.

NCT’s landholdings include numerous sites of conservation significance. Their 206 ha Enon farm, in Richmond KwaZulu-Natal, has one of the largest patches of protected Mistbelt forest under private ownership. While the 92-hectare Lenjane Conservation area, near Vryheid, includes 60 hectares of relatively intact Eastern Mistbelt forest that is home to numerous species of high conservation value.

While all indigenous forest patches are protected by law, as landowners we have a responsibility to ensure these areas are conserved to the best of our abilities. In terms of Mistbelt forests, we pay special attention to protecting forest margins through our management practices. An example of this would be ensuring legally required burning of firebreaks is done in a way that does not impact the forests. Monitoring also plays a huge role in protecting these important ecosystems. We regularly monitor the area, looking for invasive species as well as signs of illegal harvesting of plants and bark and poaching. Again, we have management plans in place to address these threats and reduce their impact,” Craig concludes.

Cover image: Lenjane Conservation Area – Steve Germishuizen
Gallery images: Enon Mistbelt Forest – Lance Bartlett

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