Be kind to bees by knowing which alien trees to axe: Gum trees provide nectar and pollen for swarms of commercial bees – and bees in turn pollinate about 50 food crops. The ‘service’ bees provide is worth about R10.3 billion per year. Nectar provides carbohydrate in the bees’ diet, and pollen, the protein. Because healthy bee populations depend on gum trees, if they were all removed, it would mean a serious shortage of food for bees. Only six gum species (e.g. Eucalyptus grandis, or Saligna gum and Eucalyptus sideroxylon, or Iron bark gum) are listed on the NEMBA list of invasive plants. These should go, especially from areas that are at risk of fire. According to Guy Preston, Deputy Director-general in the Alien and Invasives Department, “Blue gums are one of the invasives that are a problem, but it depends on where they are. A group of blue gums around a Free State farmhouse surrounded by wheatfields have nothing to invade to” (The Star, 20 February 2015). Remember - The NEMBA Regulations and lists of alien and invasive species are available at http://invasives.org.za/legislation.html or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Declared Weeds & Invader Plants).

Six giant nettle trees (Celtis sinensis) axed in Potchefstroom: In the opinion of Prof Sarel Cilliers, ecologist at the Northwest University’s Potchefstroom campus, it is silly to think that such trees can simply be replaced by new trees, and everything will be right again: “It speaks of a disregard of the ecosystem services provided by one grown tree”. It is estimated that one tree, whether indigenous or alien, provides sufficient oxygen for ten people. A seedling provides 3 000 times less oxygen than a grown tree. A tree of about 10m high does the work of five air conditioners. Trees can also rid the air of up to 50% dust, and one tree can carry up to a 100kg of dust (Susan Cilliers, Rapport Nuus. 22 February 2015).

Snippets from KZNCA News, Issue 5, February 2015:
The “Big 6” birds in SA are the Lappetfaced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus), the Saddlebilled Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), the Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus), the Crowned Hornbill (Tockus alboterminatus), the Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) and Pel’s Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli). All these bird species can be found in our area, but the latter three are more common in the northern parts of Gauteng and further north.
Ecosystems and their services: Some examples of ecosystems are wetlands, forests, plantations, grasslands, rivers and estuaries. These are natural assets, and they ‘provide’ services to us. Scientists are now wondering how to value these services. Ecosystem services to humans include support of the food chain, harvesting of animals and plants, clean air, clean water, fertile soil – even scenic views. So, how much would it cost us humans to provide the services that, say a wetland, provides in a particular area? Clean water, flood control, drainage management, wildlife habitat, erosion control, sustainable source of nutrition… That would cost a lot – and the time will come, soon, when these natural assets will be valued accordingly and have a place on your balance sheet. Hang on to them!

Natural grasslands: In the heart of the north eastern Free State, not far from the Kwazulu-Natal border, you’ll find several thousands of hectares of undulating grasslands. This area is known as the Sneeuwberg, which is in close proximity of the small town of Memel and the Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve. The Sneeuwberg is home to some of the most sensitive and unique biodiversity in the area, including vulnerable and endangered grasslands as well as wetland habitats which house various endemic plant and bird species. Being a high water yield area, with several important river systems traversing it, these grasslands are also of high value to our freshwater systems. Conservation authorities in the Free State are planning to declare 17 456ha of these grasslands as a Protected Environment – the first of its kind in the Free State (received via email on 12 February 2015).