Mondi and Sanbi team-up to protect biodiversity
The Gilboa nature reserve is the first forestry property to be proclaimed a private nature reserve in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) under the biodiversity steward- ship mechanism.
Through the biodiversity stewardship initiative, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, in partnership with the Grasslands Programme of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi), works with forestry companies to develop biodiversity stewardship agreements for unplanted land on forestry estates.
Gilboa Estate is one of the properties owned by Mondi Shanduka Newsprint, and Gilboa nature reserve covers 725 ha of the overall forestry estate. It was proclaimed and gazetted by the MEC of Environmental Affairs in KZN under the National Environ-ment Management: Protected Areas Act (No 57 of 2003) on January 14, 2010.
Gilboa is the headwaters of three of KZN’s important river systems, namely the Umvoti river, the Myamvubu river, which flows into the Mooi river, and the Mholweni river, which flows into the Umngeni river.
Associated with these river systems are extensive functional peat wetlands, which provide significant wetland functions and services such as water purification and flood attenuation.
Apart from the estate’s conservation significance and water production, it is also rich in biodiversity and has 283 ha of “critically endangered” midlands mistbelt grasslands, and contributes a further 0,22% to the provincial target for this vegetation type.
It is home to some of the most threatened species of the KZN midlands, such as the Wattled Crane, and its link with the existing Karkloof nature reserve makes it a valuable addition to the conservation of assets in KZN.
Mondi Shanduka Newsprint is one of the forestry companies working with the biodiversity stewardship initiative. It owns 60 000 ha of land in KZN and has previously committed land for environmental management.
“The move to secure unplanted areas of Gilboa Estate shows their willingness to embrace the biodiversity stewardship initiative,” says Sanbi.
A total of 37 sites, comprising 45 000 ha of biodiversity-rich grasslands on land owned by forestry companies, are expected to be proclaimed as protected areas.
“Collectively, these sites will extend the area of the grasslands biome under formal conservation by almost 5%. If these areas are not conserved, it could mean the eventual transformation of some of these areas and the sad loss of critical habitat,” adds Sanbi.
Commercial plantation forestry covers about 1,1% of South Africa’s land area.
2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, and the first forum on south–south cooperation on biodiversity for devel- opment, took place in Nagoya, Japan, in mid-October.
It was a part of the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and to which South Africa sent a high-level delegation led by the Department of Environmental Affairs