Featured Farm: Romanskraal 

Jul 5, 2022 | General News, Invasion Biology (IAPs)

Author: Boudine Kruger

Romanskraal, situated in the Langeberg mountains near Albertinia, is a beautiful farm with a wide variety of fauna and flora. Unfortunately, as with many other farms in the area, the indigenous flora on this farm seems to be battling to stay ahead of the many IAPs (Invasive alien plants) that have been taking over.  

Recently, our team was graciously invited by the owner of Romanskraal, Chris Davies, to explore this beautiful piece of land and see the progress towards IAP eradication that he and the GCBR teams have made so far. We were lucky enough to learn many things during this trip, a few of which we will be sharing with you below: 

Which IAPS Can Be Found at Romanskraal? 

 Eucalyptus Trees, Pine Trees, Black Wattle Trees, Gums and Hakea. 

As part of his 1000 year eradication plan, Chris Davies has been implementing strategies for many years and has made great progress even before collaborating with the GCBR. In this article, however, we will be focussing on how the GCBR teams are tackling the mass invasion of Eucalyptus and Wattles through manual clearing methods (no herbicide)  diligently implemented by the dedicated GCBR clearing teams. 

Why Is It Important That These Plants Be Controlled? 

As humans have historically travelled around the world, they have been known to take parts of their home countries with them, whether it be spices, materials, ideas, animals or plants. These plants, however, have often become the perpetrators of a widespread problem as they can outcompete indigenous plants making it harder for these local species to flourish without intervention. 

Eucalypts, for instance, were brought to South Africa because of their many uses (like wood and shelter.) These trees have become a widespread problem, especially in the Western Cape alongside many river courses. They are often referred to as water guzzlers since each tree consumes large quantities of water, which can alter the ground composition and make it harder for other plants to grow.  

When looking around these trees, you will seldom see dense plant growth beneath them, as very few native plants can outcompete and live alongside them. As a result, these trees create dense monoculture forests with minimum ground cover and biodiversity. The control of these trees is therefore necessary if landowners want the natural ecosystem of their land to recover and thrive. 

What is Manual Clearing, and Is It The Ideal The Answer For Romanskraal? 

Historically, many different methods have been used to try and curb the spread of invasive plant species like Eucalypts, but the eradication of IAPs is not a one-size-fits-all process. At Romanskraal, for example, a form of manual clearing is being implemented to try and eradicate these trees as effectively as possible without the use of herbicides. 

Herbicides certainly have their place in the war against IAPs; however, some landowners, such as Chris Davies, choose not to use them on their properties as a means to mitigate any negative effects on local and downstream ecosystems that chemicals can naturally have.  

Without the support of chemical interventions through herbicide, the clearing of IAPs is much more time consuming (and, therefore, more costly). However, for landowners like Chris Davies, who take a long term approach to clearing, the effort is worth it.  

At Romanskraal, the clearing takes the form of a  two-step process,  as follows: 

  • A team of workers cut down each tree as close to the ground as possible. 
  • Each stump is then stripped of its bark, causing the tree to completely lose its ability to transport essential nutrients to the tree’s roots. 

Although this may seem like an easy process, this can be a very time-consuming alternative to herbicide methods (wherein the trees are cut down and each stump is treated with herbicide). Each tree must be stripped individually by hand, and if not done correctly, it could lead to regrowth over time. The upside to removing the eucalypts in this way, however, is that there is significantly less damage caused to the native plant life in the surrounding area (as herbicides, however carefully applied, can cause losses to indigenous plant life).  

Whilst Mr Davies has been undertaking IAP clearing for decades at Romanskraal, the involvement of the GCBR teams is a relatively new endeavour on Romanskraal. Despite the infancy of the project, the GCBR teams have already made excellent progress towards IAP clearing on the farm and are grateful to be working alongside such an enthusiastic and passionate landowner as Chris Davies. With each day of IAP clearing, the GCBR hope to help shorten his 1000-year plan of IAP eradication on Romanskraal to return the farm to its full biodiverse beauty.  

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