Close collaboration with the forestry sector has resulted in the highly successful and widely used Conservation Planning Tool – a tool developed to improve biodiversity management on forestry estates.
Forestry companies have a unique role to play in grassland conservation because they often own large areas of grasslands, wetlands, streams, and indigenous forest patches that are not planted with timber for a variety of reasons.
The Conservation Planning Tool was developed to assist forestry companies in identifying and prioritising these areas in terms of their biodiversity importance. It uses Excel and GIS to combine provincial conservation plans with local fine scale data to create maps that depict the relative conservation values of the unplanted areas. These maps are then used to prioritise areas for better management and select areas for special protection.
Companies have welcomed the tool as it formalises the process of identifying biodiversity priority areas for conservation, which contributes to requirements for Forestry Stewardship Council certification. The tool is now being used by forestry companies to better manage >290 000 ha of unplanted forestry company owned land (with another 60 000 ha in the pipeline) – that is across the majority of the plantation forestry estate in South Africa. It has been implemented in three provinces and the majority of large and medium timber growers use the tool fully. Sappi for instance has included the conservation planning tool on the handheld GPS devices that the foresters use in field and Mondi is currently adding additional information to the tool to improve its range of uses.
The tool was developed through the Grasslands Programme who also provided comprehensive training on its use. This has made a significant contribution to better management and increased conservation of grassland biodiversity.
For more information on the Conservation Planning Tool, contact Stephen Germishuizen at steve[at]aes.co.za