The continuous effort of clearing mountain slopes of alien species is rewarding but challenging work. With the continuous effort of our mountain clearing teams and the support of the DFFE, LandCare, Gouritz Biosphere Cluster Reserve, and landowners, it will be possible for the conservancy to reach our end goal of controlling alien species in our precious mountain catchments.
THANK YOU TO OUR CLEARING TEAMS AND FUNDERS
Currently, the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy is part of a high mountain alien clearing project located in Langeberg Mountain, between Heidelberg and Swellendam. The Grootvadersbosch Conservancy covers over 30 000ha of private land which includes high mountain catchment areas. This project involves the clearing of alien species (mainly Hakea and Pine) in an estimated area of 6000ha, on the mountain slopes and their catchment areas.
These catchment areas are essential in sustaining river systems due to the high runoff and groundwater recharge capabilities.
The dominant vegetation type in Langeberg Mountain is mountain fynbos, a fire-driven ecosystem that must burn every 10 – 15 years. However, with alien invasions, fires become more frequent and intense. These intense fires do harm to the natural vegetation and wildlife. The project's goal is to control alien species within these catchment areas to improve groundwater recharge and catchment runoff and reduce the intense fire outbreaks that can threaten infrastructure and natural vegetation.
In 2020, the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy started working on a management plan to remove the alien species in the high mountain areas. The initial plan was developed in 2020 by our General Manager, Aileen Anderson. She did this by camping out in the mountains with countless hours of scouting and assessing the area’s infestations, prioritizing each area, and identifying access routes and suitable camping sites. From this information, a plan was developed with the help of photographs and drone footage to show the priority areas. This plan formed the basis of our ongoing High Mountain Project.
In order to execute this project, funding was needed, and partnerships were required. In 2021, funding was initially secured from landowners and the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries (DEFF). In later years, the Gouritz Biosphere Cluster Reserve and LandCare also provided additional funding for the high mountain project.
This project required the establishment of a high mountain clearing team. In order to work in these remote conditions, each member underwent training. These training courses included ‘Overnight wilderness camping’, ‘first-aid training, and ‘snake awareness and response’. 45 people underwent this training in September 2020 and again in July 2022.
The mountain team took on this project with creative enthusiasm. In order to be efficient, the team camps out for continuous days in the mountain. They are provided with camping equipment (that needs to be durable and lightweight) such as tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, flashlights, and cooking stoves.
The first team was operational in February 2021, the team had to come to terms with clearing aliens at high altitudes and all the challenges that these types of projects come with. These include working in harsh weather conditions and being temporarily cut off from public communication. The team has a radio to communicate with the conservancy. Despite the difficulties, the mountain team never feared these challenges and they continuously appreciate the view that this work comes with (as shown here in a video).
This project includes initial inspections, internal inspections, and follow-up control. Initial inspections are done beforehand by the conservancy team to determine the workload, and days needed to camp out on the mountain slopes. Then, final inspections are done to observe the clearing team’s progress. In some cases, drones are used to assess and document progress.
CHALLENGES AND LIMITATIONS
GVB Conservancy Staff