The Sand Forest Project is a sustainable model to restore critically endangered sand forest in historic lands for the first time ever.
Sand forest is considered amongst the highest conservation priority ecosystems on the planet due to biological richness, high species endemism, and ecosystem services. More than 70% has been destroyed with less than 5 000 football fields of sand forest remaining. This project will be a model to replicate regionally and grow habitat for conservation and explore value chain products and services through commercial agro-forestry activities from indigenous fruits, nuts, grains, vegetables, and oils.
The entire vegetation type is endemic to the Maputaland Centre of Endemism (MCE) and is part of the Maputaland Pondoland Albany World Biodiversity Hotspot. There are over 2 500 vascular plants in the MCE with approximately 230 endemics or near endemics. Eighty-four endemic species are associated with the Sand Forest: one mammal species and 14 sub species, 23 reptiles, three frogs, eight freshwater fish, and one medically important spider (the recently discovered Phinda Widow/Button Spider Latrodectus umbukwane ) are endemic to the MCE. The world’s largest web spinning spider Komac’s Golden Orb Web Spider ( Trichonephila komaci ) was also first discovered in the wild in sand forest in 2007.
Sand Forest has an unusually high turnover of species between different patches (beta diversity) for both dominant and rare species. This means all the patches must be conserved as we cannot protect the various species by conserving one large patch.
Ubuntu Wildlife Trust started laying the foundations for this project in January 2021. Various pilot properties have been identified. Select species are being grown for replanting and partner nurseries approached as a supporting role. The community stakeholders are currently being engaged and the leading sand forest scientists committed to being part of this fantastic initiative. The project is in final planning stage with a full proposal currently being compiled.