200 years to maturity … and that’s under good conditions. The conservation state of the iconic tree species of the southern Cape, Ocotea bullata, (black stinkwood) is perhaps indicative of the state of our logging/timber industry in the southern Cape (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocotea_bullata) …
CRITICAL. In the forests of the Garden Route, you have a better chance of spotting a Knysna Elephant than a mature Black Stinkwood. Silviculture is the patient man’s business ( … equally so for women !)
(Aside: Wikipedia defines ‘silviculture’ as the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse economic needs and community values. The word comes from the Latin silvi- (forest) + culture (dynamic, growing). The study of forests and woods is termed silvology and focuses on maximising the preservation and productivity of forests and plantations. )
Trees are properly considered the natural heritage of the southern Cape, and we are their custodians. The Timber Industry is the third strategic opportunity for the Southern Cape Corridor (S.C.C.). My line of thinking is from ‘left-field’, and I suggest that the timber industry problems we face can be approached from way below the tree-line. Truffles may lie at the root of the answer to our timber problem – that is truffles are ectomycorrhizal – growing on the roots of trees. Truffles are the underground, fruiting bodies of the Ascomycete fungus. A favourite host tree of these delicacies, for both pigs and people, is the oak, Quercus robur. My simple point is that an enterprise with access to a plantation of Quercus robur will generate significantly more profit by cultivating truffles, rather than by growing the oaks to maturity, felling them, and then selling the timber. The mathematics on this example is available on request – payment for this by way of a box of Black Périgord truffles.
Applying this illustration to the S.C.C., my suggestion is to leave the pines and eucalypts to rafcol, tappi, meinhoff, nondi and the others. Let us focus on the indigenous knowledge of southern Africa’s First Peoples, and on the medicinal properties of our rare and endangered trees and other flora. We should, on a regional scale, begin the resuscitation of our indigenous forests, clearing of invasive, alien and exotic flora, rehabilitation of our streams, rivers, estuaries, lagoons, waterfalls and wetlands – the Working for Forests project does already exist. Propagation research is well advanced for many of our critically endangered tree species, and this should me communicated and promoted throughout our communities. Neighbourhood nurseries should all stock Black Stinkwood saplings!
We need not become despondent at the lost heydeys of the logging and timber industries of our region. This era remains a proud period of our history, and the trees are still in our forests to be enjoyed, researched and marvelled at. We have three internationally acclaimed National Parks in our region: Tsitsikamma, Knysna Lakes, and Wilderness National Park, and we should begin our renewed appreciation of our Trees of Life with a rejuvenated, community-owned, marketing campaigns for, and working projects in these three treasures.
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