Forests

Forests cover less than 0.25% of southern Africa's surface area.

Forests are restricted to frost-free areas with mean annual rainfall of more than 525mm in the winter rainfall region and more than 725 mm rainfall in the summer rainfall region.

Over 1200 plant species are recorded from our Midlands Mist-belt forests, dominated by Podocarpus falcatus, with Celtis africana, Calodendrum capense, Xymalos monospora.

Dargle forests are home to rare Cape Parrots, White-Starred Robins and Samango monkeys.

The canopy cover of forests is continuous, comprising mostly evergreen trees, and beneath it the vegetation is multi-layered.

Edges of the forest patches are distinctive communities, the so-called fringe, are rich in biodiversity and are able to tolerate fire.

Partly because of their rarity, their grandeur and their setting, forests are an important tourist attraction in South Africa. They have been exploited in the past for valuable timber, including Black Stinkwood Ocotea bullata and Outeniqua Yellowwood Podocarpus falcatus. Some forests were removed for the establishment of exotic plantations. A major plant invader of forests is Blackwood Acacia melanoxylon.

Forest conservation has two facets: the maintenance of components and critical processes in the forests - which requires the conservation of the large mammals and birds which disperse seeds and maintain gap processes which allow succession within the forests - and the maintenance of gene flow - which requires allowing seed dispensers and pollinators to move along the corridors between forest patches. Thus the proclamation of isolated stands of forests as reserves may be insufficient for their conservation.

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