Friday, 25 July 2014

Helping Fynbos

Last month we had our first intern from the Living Lands, Ted – from Holland. Living Lands is a collaborative partnership based on the eastern sections of the Baviaanskloof, working with the community and really interested in ecosystem services. Ted was looking for a restoration type project for a third year university assignment. Perfect – we had just the job.

In 2009 the first black wattle clearing operations were undertaken around the Hartbeesrivier community, where we live. The wattle infesting the streams of Blue Hill was cleared in 2011. Follow up operations have been ongoing ever since to varying degrees. However, certain areas are looking pretty bad in terms of erosion. So we wanted to know how the vegetation was doing, in terms of biomass and the types of vegetation (functional groups).

We really wanted to know whether or not clearing the alien vegetation had made the erosion worse. So this was Ted's task – systematically take samples in cleared, uncleared and natural vegetation. After a month of bashing through spiny cliffortia, phragmites, mud puddles and crumbling canyons, we were able to run some models.

Turns out even now several years later, and despite natural vegetation having burnt two years ago, the cleared area was lower in biomass and in terms of natural functional groups. And while erosion was really complicated in terms of contributing factors, areas with high livestock use were clearly worse.

So – what do we do about it? Well, it was clear the land needed some help with the regeneration process. Also – after the big fire of 2012 proteas were resprouting everywhere, including in the roads and tracks – not ideal. So we've started digging up those plants doomed to be squashed by 4x4 tyres and replanting them in the areas clearly struggling to recover. Win Win Win. 

Well, we hope - it will be some time before we know if the transplanted plants have taken. So this is a documentation of the pilot project. 

Road Warrior - Wendy Foden digs up a young Protea nerifolia in the track. Skeletal remains of the parent plants can be seen behind her.

Beata (Starbucks Supervisor and volunteer) guards the rescued plants

An example of the areas cleared of wattle with replanted proteas here and there. Note lack of vegetation recovery around the stumps. 

Alexa-Storm, helping the Earth recover with love and care

A pretty shot of the winter moon setting over Hartbeesrivier
Protea nerifolia - maybe the plants we've planted will look like this one day

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