Garden Route Environmental Seminar

Garden Route Environmental Seminar Day 1
In opening Prof Fabricius of NMU advocates that Knysna should bounce back in its rebuild to a caring place. “To return to the old Knysna would be a trap”. The rebuild community has to use leverage points for transformation and within a socio-ecological framework establish greater equality in order. …“ to be and become worthy ancestors”. He referred to a friend’s quote “How to get out of a hole – stop digging”.
The very worthwhile symposium of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) brought together various layers, perspectives, disciplines and people. Many of these would not intersect in day-to-day life. Clearly it has become a common task to rebuild, but also to review the drought and fire events which in many ways defied some pre-held conceptions. The firestorm left trauma in its wake, this was noticeable during several presentations. A wee peek and some points to ponder- for detailed updates - join the Buchu bus:
• Following her keynote address in a Q&A Premier Helen Zille touched on ‘Managed Aquifer Recharge’. After abstraction, aquifers are recharged by partially treated waste water.
• Pam Booth, environmental manager at Knysna Municipality, as from June the 12th , impressed. She is instituting real environmentally friendly options into the urban domain, one being SuDS – Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and another Fireproof houses made of alien wood.
• The timber industry was hit hard and we caught an emotional undertone whilst Heine Muller of PG Bison explained the magnitude of accelerated harvesting and the stockpiling of timber (for up to four years). The ramped up scale of the operations to save the timber has required fast tracking of equipment, labour, methodology, infrastructure and even assistance from Mpumalanga and KZN. To preserve soil, heavy machinery on high flotation tyres travel only on brushed tracks of the de-branched, harvested pines. Eleven new borehole wells irrigate the stacked timber 24/7 at a rate of 50mm per day in order to preserve it. The anaerobic conditions prevent rot, fungus, insect access. He claims the eventual 2,8km long stockpile of logs will be noticed from space, together with the gaps in the Stormers’ backline! Demand for timber for agriculture dropped due to the drought (i.e. vineyard structures). Heine has been very helpful to the Outramps CREW monitoring Team on their trips to Spioenkop, Ruigtevlei.
• Dr Tineke Kraaij’s (now at NMU) presentation re post- fire vegetation recovery, the nature of the fire, its intensity and a pie chart analysis of vegetation in which the fire occurred - dovetailed with the Outramps findings and answered many of the group’s questions. The fire was intense. Recovery is slow. The humus layer burnt which may affect available seed stores and recovery. It is now very clear that to assume thicket succession in a Fynbos dominant landscape would exclude or retard fire, is mildly put, a folly.
• Although Dr Dave Edge of Brenton Blue fame has found substantial regrowth of Indogofera erecta, the larval foodplant of the Brenton Blue Butterfly, the butterfly and the ants it is associated with have not emerged yet. I am very happy to report that he is incredibly interested in butterflies and vegetation in Mossel Bay, including the Diosma reserve. Looking forward to positive collaboration with him.
Thank you SCLI & the many role-players. Well done!

Sandra Falanga
082 578 4953
sandra.falanga@gmail.com

Garden Route Environmental Seminar day 2
22 of us met over a cup of coffee at the Nautica Restaurant on Friday at 08.30 after which we set off on in a motorcade on the field visits.
First stop was at the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve, where Dave Edge enlightened us. This is a 2 hectare reserve characterised by coastal fynbos and thicket. Here there was already good regeneration of clusters of a fine grass-like sedge and much regenerating bracken. Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus (candlewood) skeletons were also showing early resprouting. Several Indigofera erecta, which is the food source of the BBB, were also emerging. Unfortunately no surviving BBB have been demonstrated after the fire thus far, but as the larvae feed for part of their lives underground on the roots of I. erecta, there is hope that survivors will re-colonise the reserve. They are also dependent on a symbiotic relationship with a species of ant of which no survivors in the reserve have been noted as yet.

Next stop was on the top of the Western heads were we could see most of the extent of the Brenton area fire. Here again there was good regeneration mainly of grass-like sedges, P. tricuspidatus was also resprouting here and there. There was also a fair scattering of small alien rooikrans seedlings. It was felt that these would be best removed by hand rather than spraying with herbicide. In other areas the burn looked relatively bare. These were mobile dunes originally mainly stabilised with rooikrans, so now prone to erosion on steep slopes and gullies post fire, which is of concern.

Next stop was at the Featherbed Reserve. Again there was active regeneration as before, however there is a major problem with erosion on the steep slopes and embankments flanking the access road. Here the management is working hard to prevent further erosion with large “sausages” consisting of biodegradable wood waste wrapped in netting, and also similar biodegradable matting. Plant regeneration on these steep slopes is sparse and the possibility of hydro seeding with Teff was discussed. Teff is an annual grass which would provide dense cover initially but then make way for the underlying natural seeds.

Last visit was to Susan Campbell’s property, which is 80 hectares lying in a valley just behind the coastal dunes between Brenton and Buffalo Bay. The recent ecological controlled burn, carried out a few weeks before the main conflagration, borders it to the north. The area consisted of coastal fynbos and thicket. The Campbell property showed severe fire damage with relatively sparse regeneration. However resprouting P.tricuspidatus, Elaeodendron croceum (saffron) and even some resprouting milkwoods (Sideroxylon inerme) were noted. Sadly a visitors rest camp with overnight facilities was totally gutted. In contrast, veld regeneration in the neighbouring controlled burn is much more advanced.
I was fortunate to travel this last leg with Peet Joubert, Benjamin Walton and Keith Spencer, 3 professional ecologists whose observations I found inspiring.

We finally enjoyed a picnic lunch, well organised by Cobus Meiring.
Bill

STOP PRESS – News just in – The Brenton Butterfly is back

Posted by outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi, November 28, 2017 05:22

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