After a seven-year programme, the South African National Biodiversity Institute concluded that the grasslands managed by plantation growers were the most diverse and best conserved of all land uses in the programme.
Over 80% of land reserved for plantation forestry is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) – the highest in the world. Some 25% of this land is not planted to trees. Instead it is conserved for biodiversity in the form of grasslands, wetlands, indigenous forests and savannah.
Only 9% of the total plantation area is harvested annually. Plantations, together with unplanted natural areas, provide biological corridors for a great many native plants and animals.
Plantations do not require annual cultivation involving soil disturbance and intensive fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide application.
Plantations provide a physical and management buffer to indigenous forests which would likely have been eradicated had the country not been able to rely on plantation grown timber. As a result, the sector is a major catalyst for social upliftment in rural communities.
Most pests and diseases in forestry are managed using biological control agents and tree breeding techniques, obviating the need for many pesticides and fungicides.
The international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®), a multi-stakeholder organisation promoting responsible management of the world’s forests, appointed a key account officer in South Africa. This demonstrates visible commitment to sustainable forestry in Africa as well as improving market conditions.
South Africa is also investing in the technical process of revising the National Forest Act Principles, Criteria and Standards for Achieving Sustainable Forest Management developed under that act for the promotion and enforcement of sustainable forest management.
While plantations replace natural vegetation (in South Africa’s case, mainly grasslands), over 80% of land reserved for plantation forestry is certified by the FSC®. Some 25% of this land is not planted to trees. Instead it is conserved for biodiversity in the form of grasslands, wetlands, indigenous forests and savannah.
FSC’s Chain of Custody tracks certified material through the production process – from the forest to the consumer, including all successive stages of processing, transformation, manufacturing and distribution.
The industry voluntarily reduced its plantation area by 80,000 hectares in riverine and ecologically sensitive areas.
There are more formally protected grassland and indigenous forests under management of the plantation industry than in any other commercial land use sector.