Celebrating International Day of Forests with Mondi
Amangwe forest is a 175-hectare of Northern Coastal Lowland Forest near Kwambonambi north of Richard’s Bay in KwaZulu-Natal and part of a network of 4,700 hectares of conservation areas that weave through 18,600 hectares of Mondi’s coastal Zululand plantations.
On 18 March, 30 years ago almost to the day, Amangwe forest gained Natural Heritage Status (No.131). This was awarded, as Amangwe was one of the few, well-preserved, examples of Coastal Lowland Forest (CLF) remaining. Approximately 90% of this important forest type had already been lost. Amangwe was also granted Natural Heritage Status because it provided a habitat for threatened species. This includes the Crowned eagle (S. coronatus), African broadbill (S. capensis) and blue duiker (P. monticola), as well as, numerous Red List plant species like the Blue sweet berry (B. catharlica), Zulu brides bush (P.gerstneri) and leaf-berry tea (T.fischeri), not to mention the 30-plus Yellowwoods (P. falcatus) with diameters of up to 2.5m.
“One of the biggest challenges at the time was to deal with the issue of invasive alien plants that were in our conservation area networks. Around eight invasive species were recorded in the Amangwe forest, and while you can never be 100% free of them, we recognised that a lot more needed to be done in terms of their maintenance”, explains Lize Shaw, Mondi Forests Environmental Specialist. This included species such as bugweed (S. mauritianum), bloodberry (R. humulis) and chromalaena (C.ordorata), as well as Barbados gooseberry (P.aculeate) (most dominant) were rife in the forest margins.
To address the invasive alien plant risks, Mondi developed a road map to get the Amangwe forest into maintenance state, with particular emphasis on the Barbados gooseberry. Lize further stated, “Between 2005-2010, Mondi spent over R1.1 million on the control of invasive plants in Amangwe forest. Consequently, Amangwe earned the title of Best Improved site for Alien Species Control in a Natural Heritage Site report and a place in the top six excellently managed Natural Heritage Sites.”
Fast forward ten years, the Amangwe forest is still proactively managed, monitored and conserved by Mondi. Key pressures, such as illegal hunting (snares) and illegal logging (for crafters), have been managed in a collaboration between Mondi’s security contractors and the Kwambonambi Conservancy guards.
Recent ecological assessments indicate that the forest is also showing signs of good health after recovery from the Barbados gooseberry infestations. “Amangwe is now one of Mondi’s High Conservation Value areas with regular monitoring for invasive alien plants to ensure infestation levels remain in maintenance state. Looking forward, we will continue to prioritise the management of Amangwe forest as an important conservation area in our Zululand landholdings,” said Brent Corcoran, Mondi Forests Certification and Environmental Manager.
Cover image: Amangwe Forest – Maryann Shaw
Gallery images: Amangwe Forest – James Harvey