The most effective and sustainable way to protect wildlife is to secure and grow biodiverse habitats. By protecting habitats, growing habitat by linking existing areas through corridors, and restoring old lands, the endemic and indigenous species populations grow and thrive. Right now we have the opportunity to do this. Sadly, in a few years time it will be too late for many of these crucial properties, some of which are currently available. It is a tiny window of opportunity for conservation – but one that will be lost if we don’t act now.
The most endangered vegetation type in South Africa is the sands forest with less than 5 000 football/soccer fields of area left. Over 70% of this has been lost in the last 20 years to land clearing, afforestation, over-harvesting, and lack of enforced protection. Sand forest is considered amongst the highest conservation priority ecosystems on the planet due to biological richness, high species endemism, and ecosystem services. Sand forest cannot return naturally and is very slow growing.
Ubuntu Wildlife Trust and partners will be the first to pioneer an innovative model for the sustainable reforestation of sand forest in South Africa. After proof of concept, this will greatly increase the conservation value of old farmlands that are historic sand forest areas. This allows us to link existing sand forest patches and for species to interact and disperse between these patches. Sand forest patches have a lot of species variation between patches (beta-diversity). This means we need to save as many patches as possible to save the associated species – and link existing patches to allow genetic transfer. There is not much of this type of historic area in existence and any opportunity to secure this land must be taken.
This project will only be successful with the support and involvement of the local community. It must bring sustainable, measurable benefits to the individuals within the community. This project is designed with a value chain at the back end which brings tangible benefits to the community. This will be in the form of services, products, and direct employment. Ubuntu Wildlife Trust believes in innovation and creativity in achieving the impossible. This will be a legacy project with far reaching conservation impacts.