“Fingers of the Forest”, is emerging as a seed idea born from the recent fires and urgent attention needed on the boundary of our precious indigenous forest. So just as a seed, scorched by fire, grows with ferocity after the fire, so this seed idea will grow rapidly into a workable solution that can have a positive benefit on our environment.
The pine plantations literally blanket the earth in the Knysna Area. There are very few places where the land is still connected to the forest. To bring the land back into balance, indigenous trees need to be planted, but not just planted, they need to have a vein into the indigenous forest to connect with it. A forest consists of plants, trees, animals, bugs, moss, mycelium etc. The land needs to source these creatures from the main forest.
We have done an extensive study into Pine forests and what dangers they create for local communities. The firebreaks are obviously inadequate. When you start to dig around and discover who owns the land and who takes the profits from these vast timberlands its a wormhole.
The plantations have been planted without proper consideration for the environment or the living creatures in it, they have cut the living forest off from the land. This is damaging the land and reducing the size of the last piece of indigenous forest in South Africa.
The Knysna Forest needs to reconnect to the land and interconnect with the small pieces of endemic forests that are scattered around. To do this we need to begin creating fingers/corridors of fire-resistant endemic trees. Coming out of the main forest and then continuing in long corridors of 50-100 meters in width. Corridors between the plantations should consist of indigenous trees that are fire resistant. They will take less long-term management than keeping a firebreak clean and provide more protection as a firebreak. These trees can also be harvested after their growth period and be used as indigenous woods.
Until now, eleven meters of open space around every farm owners individual boundary (which needs to be cleared three times a year to be effective) is the current law. This is not effective, but because the law says a firebreak needs to be like that, citizens are compelled to follow it. However, this cannot stop a forest fire and in my opinion, it often makes things worse. However, an endemic forest can(stop a fire). This is not rocket science. It is pure logic. Why have empty space when you can grow a corridor of the endemic forest as a firebreak and even be able to harvest wood from it once it has been established?
These corridors increase species diversity by allowing small animals and birds etc to thrive and move freely from one section of the forest to another. The animals pollinate and spread seeds, constantly increasing the natural growth of the forest.
A project like this has huge consequences for the amount of increased green in the area. And a gigantic step to reducing South Africa’s carbon footprint with the public sectors direct involvement in co-operation with the pine corporations and responsible persons. All the firebreaks can be corridors of endemic forest. Everyone wins, the pine companies, the environment and the people who belong to the land.
We want to initiate the start of this project “Fingers of the forest” with immediate effect. A nursery will be the first step, combined with a massive clearing and replanting program. The nursery will be for many thousands of trees. We are in negotiation with San Parks officials and municipality (with SCFPA approval) to be allowed the right to revitalise the boundary of the indigenous forest.
Step two; will be to find the funding to assist local dwellers to extend the forest into their properties. Eventually crossing the entire Kraaibos community and joining the endemic forest four and a half km away. Creating the first corridor and surrounding Kraaibosch community with an endemic forest firebreak. With funding, this could be possible within five years.
‘The hand’ from which the fingers extend will be with the particular community (In this case Pachamama Forest Retreat) along the forest edge who will nurture baby trees plants and other forest sources to feed these corridors, providing the forest with fingers which travel over the land connecting the land with the heart of the indigenous forest and creating the much needed new technology, of forest finger firebreaks and woodlots. These heart communities will also plan new strategies to deal with invasive trees after a fire and assist local forest communities to implement new strategies to prevent overgrowth of alien species after a fire. Nurturing the newly burnt land until local species have taken hold.
The global awareness of the necessity to plant trees has reached the highest numbers ever. It’s time to plant trees. And find fun ways to do it.