Stinkhoutsbos forest restoration Project, Flower Valley, South AfricaA joint initiative between the Flower Valley Conservation Trust and Fynbos Trail.
The Stinkhoutsbos Forest is roughly triangular in shape and situated in a south facing ravine on Flower Valley. For those hiking the standard Fynbos Trail it provides a cool, tranquil setting for lunch on Day 2. According to the earliest available aerial photography of this area from 1938 the original forest was approximately 8.5 hectares in extent. During the Second World War Italian prisoners were brought into the valley to cut out many of the mature black stinkwoods (Ocotea bullata) and other trees from this forest. As a result of this tree felling increased light levels entered the forest resulting in the growth of more shrubby, fire-prone species. Over the following 75 years this has resulted in numerous veld fires burning into and reducing the size of the original natural forest.
Plate 1. A photo of Stinkhoutsbos taken in 2004 prior to the 2006 wild fire that destroyed much of the forest.
The forest had been recovering relatively well and a survey in 2004 showed excellent regrowth and recolonisation by many of the important canopy species. Unfortunately the worst fire in recorded history struck the area in February 2006, burning some 50,000 hectares of fynbos and forest. Stinkhoutsbos was hit by the fire near mid-day on day seven of the burn. A massive flame front engulfed the forest burning all but a few isolated pockets. A forest which had survived for thousands of years in a fire-prone landscape was all but destroyed as a result of the combination of felling of its mature canopy in the early 1940's and a devastating fire some seventy years later.
Plate 2. A portion of Stinkhoutsbos burnt in the 2006 fire, as it looks in 2012.
As a means of contributing to a worthwhile conservation initiative and leaving more than just footprints behind on the trail, hikers on the Fynbos Trail are given the opportunity to plant a locally grown indigenous tree in the forest as part of the Stinkhoutsbos Forest Restoration Project. This joint initiative between the Flower Valley Conservation Trust and Fynbos Trail aims to plant some 13,000 trees in the forest over the next fifteen years. Tree planting is normally done on day 2 of the trail after lunch and is included in the cost of the slackpacking option 1. As part of the project a fire break has been cut and is being maintained around the forest to reduce the chance of a wildfire burning into the forest and further damaging it.
Tree planters have the opportunity to plant as well as name their tree and a GPS location is taken of each tree and recorded in our tree planter's database.