Forestry

Forestry Theme

Importance of commercial forestry and its distribution

Importance of commercial forestry and its distribution

Commercial forestry is a major economic force that contributes to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) i.e., its contribution from year 1980 to 2009 has been estimated to have increased from 4.5% to 9.7%. This sector also provide employment to around 170 000 people both directly and indirect. Most of the job opportunities are created in areas where there was little or no prospect of employment opportunities e.g., in rural areas. An increase in participation of previously disadvantage groups and women have been through various out-grower schemes, where forest companies’ partners with community based groups for timber production. These partnerships were aimed at poverty alleviation; creations of jobs and at the same time obtain excess timber from such schemes. Forest ecosystems act as a large store of terrestrial carbon and account for a major part of the carbon exchange between the atmosphere and the land surface. Afforestation has not been without controversy especially around water availability or supplies given that South Africa is regarded as a water scarce country with uneven distribution of rainfall. Most criticism has been on impacts forestry have on both the quality and quantity of water resources. Other challenges faced by this sector include pests and pathogens, forest fires, land redistribution and climate change. Climate change is likely to bring about climatic extremes to the detriment of future sustainability forest sector and agriculture. The impacts of climate change are likely to have substantial impacts on the global structure, jobs and functioning of timber markets.

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Commercial forestry optimum growth areas

Climate is a primary factor for site quality or classification of sites in South Africa (Schönau and Grey, 1987). Mean annual precipitation (MAP) and mean annual temperature (MAT) are the two used regionally to measure variation in climate. MAP characterises long-term water supply into the region and hence defines the potential of a growing area assuming other factors such as nutrients, available light and suitable substrate. MAT is associated with the amount of heat units available that in turn can be an indication of length of a growing season, the potential evapotranspiration to take place and the rate of assimilation The growth conditions on a regional or local scale are determined by light associated with day length, temperature regimes and available soil water or moisture, atmospheric or soil bound. The hottest mean maximum temperature is around 30 °C whilst mean annual temperature is 22 °C for KwaZulu-Natal north coast. The mean annual rainfall decreases from an average of 1200 to 1400mm along the coast to an average of 650mm inland. Mean annual temperature decreases from 22 °C to 16 °C from the coast to 20km inland respectively (Schulze, 1997).The optimal growth sites for commercial plantation forestry are concentrated on the eastern coast in the provinces of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Limpopo. These areas are characterized by mean annual rainfall and mean annual temperature above 850mm and 14°C, respectively (Van der Zyl, 1995). These maps were adapted from Schulze and Maharaj, (2007) and overlaid with forest distribution data from CSIR. References: 1.Schulze, R.E. and Maharaj, M. 2007. Mean Annual Temperature. In: Schulze, R.E. (Ed). 2007. South African Atlas of Climatology and Agrohydrology. Water Research Commission, Pretoria, RSA, WRC Report 1489/1/06, Section 7.2. 2.Schönau, A. P.G. and Grey, D.C., 1987. Site Requirements of Exotic Tree Species.Forestry Handbook 1987. The Southern African Institute of Forestry, pp 82-94. 3. Van der Zel, D.W. (1995). Accomplishments and Dynamics of the South African Afforestation Permit System. South African Forestry Journal, 172, pp 49-57.

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South African Forestry Economic Zones

South African Forestry Economic Zones

Rainfall patterns across the country influence the distribution of forestry in South Africa. The coastlines of South Africa receive more rain than the interior and western portions of the country. The distribution is therefore along the coastlines i.e. eastern side of the country with Mpumalanga province having over 40% of plantation area followed by KwaZulu-Natal (39.6%), Eastern Cape (11.1%), Western Cape (4.6%) and Limpopo (3.9%). Overall, the plantation forestry is demarcated into twelve forestry economic zones. These zones are based on political (provincial), physical (climate, rainfall, soil), silvicultural (timber species), economic (communication systems) and historic (ingrained usages) considerations.

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Forestry facts and figures

The importance and challenges faced by the commercial forestry sector are highlighted in this folder.

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National veldfire risk classes

National veldfire risk classes

Forestry sector regard fires as one of the major challenge which causes massive damage to timber. The mere fact that forestry distribution in South Africa is along areas which are prone to veldfires, (i.e. high to extreme risk areas ) and high lightning flash densities. High temperatures and uneven rainfall as a result of climate change will lead to intensified dry spells in some areas and consequently increase the intensity and occurrences of forest fires (IPCC, 2007).

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Lightning Flash Density classes

Lightning Flash Density classes

Lightning is known to ignite fires and is considered as the most significant of natural causes of veld fires in South Africa. The distribution of commercial forestry plantation in South Africa relative to lightning flash density areas, indicate that most forests are vulnerable to fires from lightning strikes. The fires in these areas will be exacerbated by the erratic weather patterns induced by climate change. The map shown below was adapted from Schulze (2007) and National Land Cover (NLC, 2009). Reference: Schulze, R.E. 2007. Lightning Ground-Flash Density. In: Schulze, R.E. (Ed). 2007. South African Atlas of Climatology and Agrohydrology. Water Research Commission, Pretoria, RSA, WRC Report 1489/1/06, Section 19.1.

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Useful links

This folder provides vital links to Governmental Departments, Tertiary Institutions, Councils, and Organizations related to commercial forestry, pests and pathogens and climate

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