Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Amatole Mistbelt Forests

South Africa
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While forests are not believed to have ever covered a large part of South Africa, logging, clearing for agriculture, and forest plantations have much reduced their original extent. Indigenous forests now cover only 0.33 per cent of South Africa's land area.

South Africa's Amatole Mistbelt Forests are part of the southernmost areas of Afromontane forest in Africa. They contain some small remaining patches of indigenous forest. These forests fall within the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot and are home to variety of unique plant and animal species, including several endemic species such as the endangered giant golden mole (Chrysospalax trevelyani). They are also important resources for local people who rely on them for wood and non-wood products. Some of the characteristic tree species are yellowwood (Podocarpus falcatus), (see photo), red currant (Rhus chirindensis), and black ironwood (Olea capensis).

South Africa's Department of Water Affairs and Forestry defined the areas of Isidenge and Pirie as "irreplaceable" patches of indigenous forest. While nearly half of the forests in the Amatole Mistbelt Forests are under state management, less than 1.5 per cent are under strict protection. Comparison of these 1972 and 2001 images shows some new areas of tree cover, (yellow arrows); however, these are primarily plantation forests of pine and eucalyptus, which threaten to alter the hydrology and reduce the biodiversity of these ecosystems.
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