Answer to question raised after Natal Timber Course:
Question: “Why is South Africa not growing more indigenous trees for commercial purposes?”
I consulted Dr Iain Thompson (Eucalyptus Genetist in KZN) and his comments included:
Using indigenous trees is definitely not the best option. It comes down to land use efficiency and sustainability.
South Africa is classified as a semi-arid environment and arable land is hard to come by.
The most efficient and best thing to do is to optimise the forestry areas and plant fast growing aliens.
This is no longer an environmental disaster:-
Available forestry land in this country is declining every year and most of the suitable catchments have already been declared full.
Thus no new water licenses will be issued except perhaps in the Eastern Cape.
The existing forestry land is on the whole well managed.
What’s more, forestry uses far less harmful chemicals then say the mealies, fruit trees, wheat and sugar that you buy without qualm in the supermarket.
The Forestry Stewardship Council is very strict from an environmental and sociological stand point.
Here it is recommended that all involved become familiar with the FSC process (HQ in Pmb) and other responsible forest certification schemes.
FSC is what the majority of SA timber plantation farmers use and I would suggest checking out their website: https://ic.fsc.org/
Our best Eucalyptus plantations produce 30 tons of usable timber per year per hectare (30 MAI), indigenous trees are just nowhere close to that:
The fever tree, for example, puts on less than 10 tons per year and at this rate forestry does not make economical sense.
The yellow-woods are even slower growing.
There are some yellow wood plantations (very small area) on the north coast (Enseleni area).
These are about 25 years old and about the same height as a 5 year gum plantation.
From a holistic point of view, the best method is to grow your most productive species on your designated forestry land.
This should allow wider conservation of indigenous forest areas.
The major problem currently is the fact that South Africa currently exports a large percentage of our timber.
This just doesn’t make any sense as we are now a net importer!
To show the positive effects of FSC on Forestry in Natal, camera trap images in “indigenous corridors” in Natal can be viewed.