The Environment in and around Bathurst is very diverse, including locally indigenous plants as well as an infestation of invasive alien plants.
The Bathurst Commonage
– How do we manage its various uses sustainably?
– History of the Bathurst Commonage.
– What is the Commonage and what does it do?
For full information, please click here
NEWSFLASH 22 July 2023
BR&RA were privileged to be included in the Inaugural Multistakeholder Co-Ordination Forum discussing the Biodiversity Economy Node envisaged for the Addo – Amathole region. The event was organised by SANParks, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment, the Global Environment Facility, Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency and Wilderness Foundation Africa. Read more…
BATHURST VILLAGE A BIO-HAZARD?
No, it’s not about the roads, or sewage and waste dump leaks into streams and rivers, though BR&RA is paying attention to those things. It’s about our infestation of invasive alien plants. The Village and surrounding road verges are overrun by them, but the commonage and other local natural areas are still relatively clear.
So what’s the problem with invasives? They “advance remorselessly across the countryside, choking dams, rivers and irrigation channels; starving our indigenous flora of water, light and air; depriving us of valuable agricultural and grazing land.” This quote from a 1978 book published by the Department of Nature and Environmental Conservation concludes “It is in our own interest, and in the interest of our descendants, to deal with this problem now.”
Now? 45 years later! Why haven’t we got rid of them? Didn’t know? Pretty flowers? Good security hedge? Pleasant fruit? Hard work to clear? Expensive to get rid of? Someone else’s problem? There are plenty of excuses, but while we do nothing, the problem just gets worse.
What can we do? Starting with our own gardens, we can consult the linked list or someone who recognises the invaders and clear them out of our own immediate space. If we’re feeling public spirited, we can use our gardener’s time one day a month or every second month to deal with the mess on the roadside next to our property. We can investigate ways to support BR&RA’s initiatives aimed at getting rid of this problem.
Top Twenty Targets – Plants to get rid of
To see our listing of the top Twenty Targets – Plants to get rid of, click here
Bathurst in the Thick of Things
Albany Thicket, Subtropical Thicket, Subtropical Transitional Thicket, Valley Bushveld, Hunters Hell – our local natural vegetation has had a lot of names over the years. And a lot of years, too. Some species like Cycads, Cabbage trees and Strelitzias have their origins in Gondwanaland, 280 million years ago. Most of our plants and associated insects are a lot younger, dating only from the Eocene, 56 – 33.9 million years ago.
Our vegetation type stretches from patches around the Gouritz River, to the Kei, becoming dominant in the Gamtoos, Sundays and Fish River valleys. In the drier areas it’s called Xeric Thicket, but around Bathurst, where we have more rainfall, it becomes Mesic Thicket. It’s all under-protected, under-researched and under threat, with Mesic Thicket the most threatened.
Thicket, with South Africa’s highest diversity of plant growth forms, is a key vegetation type in three biodiversity hotspots. A biodiversity hotspot is not a good thing! It’s an area seriously under threat. But what’s so special about biodiversity? It’s the complex web of interrelated life that basically forms the planet’s immune system, enabling it to cope with climate variations and other biological disasters. Destroying biodiversity destroys nature’s resilience, and its ecosystem services.
Mega-herbivores like elephant, rhino and even buffalo co-evolved with Thicket. Not only did they make gaps in the dense vegetation for other animals (and people) to get through, elephants’ chaotic feeding habits encouraged coppicing in many plants, e.g. spekboom. Rhinos’ unusual digestive system helped spread undigested plant seeds. Domesticated livestock does none of this.
Many Thicket plants are favourites in gardens around the world, because they will survive almost anything except severe frost – drought, flood, sun, shade, wind are all OK. Australia has developed more than 600 variations of Agapanthus praecox, and has let it become a weed. Clivia nobilis was discovered by Burchell near the Kowie River and has been grown in Europe for centuries. Hen and chickens is the world’s most widely cultivated pot plant, followed closely by mother-in-law’s tongue. California has adopted Strelitzia as the State flower, with Coral tree taking honours in Los Angeles!
More than 1500 plant species are native to Thicket, some 20% are endemic, that is found in nature nowhere else on earth. More than 350 of South Africa’s 2000 indigenous tree species occur in Thicket, and about the same number of succulents, with an astonishing 50% of them endemic. At least 70% of Thicket has been transformed or removed, mostly for crop cultivation, livestock grazing, or urban development. Or it’s threatened by invasive alien vegetation. Only some 2% is in statutorily protected areas.
Thicket Treasures – Not to clear
There are many rewards for leaving locally indigenous plants be when clearing a plot for building or re-designing a garden. Among them are preserving the drought-resistant mycological structures in the soil, retaining established plants that need neither water nor care, continuing to feed birds and bees that are used to foraging there.
For a complete list of our treasures, please click here.
For more information, contact Friends of Waters Meeting at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or phone or whatsapp Elizabeth on 065 730 0473, Ryana on 073 785 6388 or Nick on 079 796 4207.