Formally Protected Areas
These are areas identified as having high or unique biodiversity, that provides important ecosystem services or home to rare, endemic or threatened species, can be put forward to become a Formally Protected Area (FPA).
FPAs are proclaimed under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (Act 57 of 2003) and based on partnerships between landowners, Provincial Conservation Authorities and NGOs to secure biodiversity. They ensure sites that are important for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services are given long-term security.
For State forest land, as with SAFCOL, formal protection is proclaimed under the National Forest Act (Act 84 of 1998). This would apply to all vegetation types ranging from grasslands to indigenous forests. Such areas declared under the National Forest Act, are known as Forest Nature Reserves. The “intent to declare” five of these areas managed by SAFCOL as Forest Nature Reserves was published in the Government Gazette for a total area of 4 847,89 hectares.
Sappi’s Super Seven
“At Sappi, we are proud to have seven formally protected areas within our landholdings. Each of these Stewardship sites is of high ecological and biodiversity value, and as a company, Sappi is committed to protect and monitor these important Formally Protected Areas”, explains Louise van Wyk, Sappi Area Environmental Manager (MPU) and Chairperson of Forestry South Africa’s Environmental Management Committee.
Sappi’s seven sites include:
The Clairmont Nature Reserve on Sappi’s Clairmont plantation in KwaZulu-Natal, includes approximately 940 hectares of Moist Grasslands and Mistbelt Forests as part of the highly diverse Mahwaqa Mountain. The mountain itself has been extensively surveyed and found to support over 1000 species of plant, including many species of orchid, some of which are endangered. What makes the Clairmont Nature Reserve particularly significant is that it connects two other existing nature reserves, aiding in the defragmentation of this important habitat.
The Roelton Blue Swallow Reserve on Sappi’s Sutton plantation in the Ixopo area of KwaZulu-Natal, includes approximately 120 hectares of Mistbelt Grassland. In addition to the critically endangered Blue Swallows (Hirundo atrocaerulea) that are found here, the area is also home to Blue Cranes (Anthropoides paradisea) Denham’s bustard (Neotis denhami) and Black-winged lapwings (Vanellus melanopterus). The endangered Mist-belt chirping frog (Anhydrophryne ngongoniensis), has also been recorded in a dam located in this area.
The Karkloof Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, 223 hectares of which is part of Sappi’s landholdings. The Reserve has been deemed a vital and significant area due to the high levels of biodiversity found within the Mistbelt Forest and Mistbelt Grassland ecosystems.
The Ngodwana River Valley Nature Reserve on Sappi’s Nooitgedacht plantation in Mpumalanga includes 965 hectares of land that transitions from Northern Escarpment Dolomite Grassland to Legogote Sour Bushveld, both of which are endangered vegetation types. The unique geology of the area has resulted in the evolution of plant species specially adapted to this area, with many of the plants being endemic and worthy of protection. The site also neighbours the existing Coetzeestroom Nature Reserve, providing a greater protected area and reducing habitat fragmentation. The impact of this was illustrated with the confirmed occurrence of Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), here which use the valley as a corridor linking the Elands Valley with the Badplaas Valley.
The Mount Morgan Nature Reserve which is part of Sappi’s land holdings within the Queens River sub-catchment, plays an important strategic role in water supply to the Barberton region. As well as providing important ecosystem services, this 1 013 hectares Reserve is adjacent to three existing protected areas and has been identified as having a high biodiversity value.
The Oosterbeek Nature Reserve and the Angle Ridge Nature Reserve are part of Sappi’s land holdings in Mpumalanga, covering an area of 2 995 hectares. The reserves are home to a protected grass aloe (Aloe albida), besides a wealth of other species. Within the reserve, there are sites of important Heritage value too, including Angle Station which was part of the 20 km cableway that connected the town of Barberton with the Havelock Asbestos Mine.
“The forestry landscape is more than simply stand upon stand of plantation trees. Those who are willing to look beyond the trees will find a patchwork landscape which includes both FPAs and other conservation spaces. These sites are important for the conservation of key environmental values, such as biodiversity and ecosystem services. They are a secret world within the forestry landscape, that ensure forestry in South Africa provides far more than just timber”, Louise Van Wyk.
Photo credit: Peta Hardy