Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The quotation above, about sums up our CREW week. On Tuesday Nicky and Nanna Joubert of Pledge took on plant rescue (Nicky’s report) on an erf in the Cola Conservancy at Sedgefield, which is about to be developed. The owners are keen to save as many plants as they can, but this exercise reflects the mounting development pressure on our Southern Cape Coast. Our favourite coastal hike Kranshoek, has been decimated by the 2017 fires and much work needs to be done to re-open it. Sandra represented CREW at a Mossel Bay municipality meeting, called to discuss means of saving the little Diosma Reserve for the Critically Endangered little Diosma aristata which grows there (Sandra’s report) and on Friday we had to make a crack of dawn decision to bail out of a field trip to Gourikwa and substitute it with Lange Bergin the Langkloof.

Cola Conservancy
On Tuesday 26th June, Nanna Joubert and I met a landowner in the Cola Conservancy to discuss the conservation /relocation of plants on a site that will be undergoing development in the near future.

I was very happy to find Erica glumiflora (VU) again, as on our previous visit we could not find it. We also found two Hyobanche robusta (EN) plants in bud under a bush. The leaves of many Satyrium princeps (VU) plants were making an appearance and Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei (VU) provided colour.

The Cola Conservancy continues to work hard to keep as much of the Southern Cape Dune Fynbos as natural a habitat as possible, so that these and other fynbos species may thrive. We really appreciate all the work that they do.

Megan Taplin, Head of Knysna SANPARKS, asked the Outramps and WAGS to walk Kranshoek and report on its readiness for public access and the state of regeneration of the vegetation. This is what we had to say.
“Kranshoek is undoubtedly one of the premier day hikes in the world. It combines 3 vegetation types, Afro-temperate forests, Fynbos and Noetzie Thicket, making it a microcosm of the Southern Cape habitat types. The views of the rugged and beautiful coastline are unparalleled. It is absolutely crucial that it is opened again as soon as possible. It is an incredible drawcard for international tourists and locals alike. At best, it is a strenuous and difficult hike and should be open to the fitter and more experienced hikers. Having said that, I do it on crutches, Bill is almost 84 and I am about to hit 80. Between us, we have 6 joint replacements and I have no Achilles tendon on my left foot. So really, if you’re youngish and fit, you should be able to do it relatively easily.

Trail Report
That was before the fire. Currently, it is very tricky indeed. There are quite steep drops, which were previously not obvious because of the vegetation cover. A lot of the track is covered by creepers, which makes it difficult to see the underlying hazards. The rocky slopes are fairly tricky with loose rocks that used to be anchored by soil. Without the tree cover, this soil has been washed away. Sticks and crutches had an alarming habit of disappearing down cracks with some interesting results. The creepers tend to hook around sticks and feet and increase the possibility of tripping. There are a lot of loose rocks on the big scree slope and there is a route lower down that could avoid most of it. Old signs exposed by the fire need to be painted over and the new signs should be given prominence. We have been hiking Kranshoek most years since 1970 - even before the trail was opened in 1973. Despite our familiarity with the trail, with the vegetation gone and conflicting signs, Bill and I lost the route a couple of times. One of those was on the big scree slope and it was distinctly hairy, with me bleating my way up. Language unbefitting our venerable age was fortunately drowned out by the enormous surf pounding against the jagged rocks on the shore.

WAGS comments on the Trail reflect our own. It took us just over 7 hours of hard slog and WAGS did it in just over 5 hours. It was very difficult going and there is still much to do, before it is opened to the general public. We very much appreciate Megan’s call for help and would be very happy to assist in any way in the weeks ahead. With staff under pressure, volunteers like CREW are there to be utilized.”

Vegetation Report
The property slopes gently from about 150 m to 70 m on a southern aspect and then steeply to precipitous over a short distance to the coast. The geology is generally sandstone. On the flat to gentle upper slopes the soils are a Plinthic catena whereas the steeper lower slopes are Mispah and Glenrosa.

The ecosystem threat status is vulnerable and is described in SA Vegmap as South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos FFs19. Vlok’s Vegmap further classifies it into Roodeplaat Grassy Fynbos on the generally flat areas along the northern boundary, Noetzie Proteoid Fynbos on the gentle southern slopes and Noetzie Thicket Fynbos on the steeper southern slopes. The main ravine hosts afro-temperate forest.

The vegetation last burnt in June 2017 (Knysna fire). The post fire regeneration is good on the upper slopes and at the coast. Anisodontea scabrosa, Mariscus congestus ssp jamaicense and Bobartia aphylla pioneers are very common throughout the area. On the lower slopes Osteospermum moniliferum, Leucospermum cuneiforme and Leucadendron salignum are resprouting well. Colpoon compressum, Searsia species, Pelargonium species, Tarconanthus littoralis and Euclea racemosa are also common resprouters here. Virgilia divaricata (Keurboom)is also reseeding very well, indicating previous forest edges. Teedia lucida is in flower and forms a patchy cover on some of the lower slopes. Vegetation on the steep krantzes has not recovered yet, but some trees in the ravines are putting out new leaves.

In the forest areas, the creepers have taken hold. Diopgon lignosus (Cape Sweetpea) has colonised huge areas and a host of other creepers and lianes are going for the gap. They include Dioscorea mundii (Near Threatened) and probably D. sylvatica (Vulnerable). Resprouting is taking place on Sideroxylon inerme (Milkwood) and Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus – Candlewood (amongst others). The Ocotea bullata (Stinkwood) juveniles near the shore at the bottom of the main ravine are sending out new shoots. The fern Hypolepis sparsisora is also enjoying the presence of more light and at times it is forming a monoculture. Along the rocky shores, Tetragonia fruticosa is covering a lot of ground, where it is also joined by Dipogon lignosus. In the Spring there is going to be a huge display of Ornithogalum dubium (Tchinkerinchee).

There is very little regeneration on the steep, generally south-facing cliffs. Heavy rains could contribute to significant rockfalls. In the Fynbos area, we also found some reseeders doing well. They include Metalasia muricata (Coastal Blombos) Protea neriifolia and seedlings of Acmadenia alternifolia (Vulnerable).

The presence of alien vegetation is startlingly less prevalent than on the private properties of the Robberg Corridor to the east. We saw Bluegums, Pines, Solanum nigrum, mauritianum and giganteum. Phytolacca octandra and some of the Acacia species were present, but not in overwhelming numbers, which is laudable. Sanparks is to be congratulated.

Unfortunately the afro-temperate forest component of the vegetation is going to take a very long time to achieve its former glory. Close to the seashore some of it has survived the fire. The lack of regeneration on the steep south-facing cliffs remains a concern. The Fynbos and Strandveld sections are well on their way to recovery.

Diosma Reserve – ‘Woess’ and Wait or Clobber in and Cut?
A quick meeting with Warren Manuel and Dirk Zietsman of the Mossel Bay Muncipality (MBM) and Amanda Human of the Bartholomeu Dias Museum took place at the Diosma Reserve Thursday morning to review invasive plant control. Port Jackson (Acacia saligna) is sprouting profusely and the Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops) seedlings are swiftly outgrowing the handpull stage. Disturbance, so far, has been kept to a minimum to allow Diosma aristata (Critically Endangered), which only grows here, to germinate. A year after the 7th June 2017 fire and no seedlings have been noted. Although the site is easily accessible, it is not safe to walk there alone, which limits casual monitoring substantially. A structured search, similar to the census counts would actually be ideal.
Four areas were identified which could possibly be demarcated where the alien invasive plants can be tackled. CapeNature would have to give the green light before this goes ahead. A contractor will then be assigned to do the work as the MBM does not have their own teams to do the work – everything is outsourced. At this stage we are a bit between a rock and a hard place with this. No Diosma as yet, strong emergence of the unwanted vegetation and my concern about the envisaged disturbance by clearing teams. Kikuyu forms a security-firebreak behind the homes which form the northern border of the Reserve. The possibility to eradicate and even replace the Kikuyu (Carpobrotus spp.) was raised.
Funding to continue fencing will be available soon and a contractor will be assigned to fence the eastern border across from Heiderand homes. There are still piles of rubbish along the edges of the east west track, now becoming overgrown. These remained after some clearing was done, August 2017. Again it was a case of an outsourced team taking on the work and not MBM staff. CREW members (coming from George, Wilderness, Sedgefield) were present to supervise. Rain interrupted the work on both days and had to be stopped due to rules and regulations in this regard. Altogether somewhat frustrating and unsatisfactory in terms of outcome, though the snakes and scorpions residing in the rubble would beg to differ!

Gourikwa becomes Lange Berg
It was at about 6am that the first What’s App notification rang out on my phone, Puzzled by the timing, I checked it. Coming from Sally, “Tyres burning close to Engen Garage west of Mossel Bay. Exits from the town blocked and possible unrest from Klein Brak and east of Knysna to Plett.” I followed Sally’s suggestion and phoned the Fire Department. “If you can avoid using N2 to east or west of George, please do so”, was their advice. So what now? A flurry of What’s App messages and we decided to head for the Langkloof, where there are no major towns for many miles. We first took the Daskop Road, but could find no resident farmers for permission to access an attractive Kopje on the northern side of the Langkloof Road. So we beat a retreat and drove further east, eventually taking a gravel road south to Ganzekraal. Finally, we landed up at the farm that is owned by Duane Doubell. He gave us a very warm welcome and sent us on our way on a jeep track that ran south to a nek higher up to the west of Langeberg on the old Outeniqua Trail. We parked the Buchu Bus, as the track seemed unsuited to her advanced age and anyway you see much more on Shank’s Pony.

Right at the beginning of the walk, we were startled to see a Banksia and the beautiful Hakea laurina, which had the cameras clicking madly. This Hakea was a first for most of us. Even more startling was coming across Protea grandiceps (Near Threatened). This was the only “Rare” we saw all day and it has obviously been planted. Finally, we realized that this farm had been used to grow flowers, mainly for the horticultural trade. Protea neriifolia gave a magnificent display. Agathosma mundtii and Erica rosacea complimented each other all along the way. Many young Cyclopia intermedia plants have been cultivated, although now they seem to be swallowed up by the vigorous growth of Cliffiortia stricta. Coming into early bud was a Leucospermum of the cordifolia type. At first, I thought it might be Leucospermum glabrum (Endangered), but I “wrong locality” and it’s probably a hybrid of some sort.

Every imaginable Eucalyptus species seems to be growing there. Currently they are harvesting fencing poles from the Eucalyptus thickets. There was Hakea sericea and both Pinus pinaster and radiata present in the Fynbos. There is a huge task ahead of Duane, if he is going to manage to rid the farm of aliens. We are hugely grateful for his allowing us to access the property and will send him a report.

On Friday we will once again attempt to get to Gourikwa. Hopefully, the protests will have subsided by then
Hamba Kahle
Groete en dankie
Di Turner
Outramps CREW Group
Southern Cape

All id’s subject to confirmation by Doc Annelise and Jan Vlok, Steven Molteno, Dr Tony Rebelo, Nick Helme, Prof Charlie Stirton, Dr Robert Archer, Dr Robert McKenzie, Dr Ted Oliver, Dr Christopher Whitehouse, Adriaan Grobler, Prix Burgoyne, Dr Kenneth Oberlander, Dr Pieter Winter, Dr David Gwynne-Evans and Mattmatt on iNat. Thank you all for your ongoing help and support.

Outramps Projects and Places on iNaturalist – You can browse through the observations or refer to the checklist which is in alphabetical order eg. Animals, birds etc.

הועלה ב-יולי 2, 2018 06:09 לפנה"צ על ידי outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi


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