Monday, 25 July 2011

Environmental awareness essential for our own survival says expert

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In comparison to the vast human needs in South Africa, such as unemployment, HIV/Aids and provision of running water for the poor, the issue of conserving indigenous land may seem small. Indigenous plant awareness, or the lack of it, can have huge environmental, human and economic effects.
Protecting and encouraging the growth of indigenous plant species helps to ensure the continuation of South Africa’s unique ecosystems, securing a sustainable future for generations to come, says Val Thomas, author of Sappi Tree Spotting. She stresses that it is up to the public to take an active interest in the preservation of our indigenous ecosystems.

"The presence of trees is one of the most important contributors to improving our carbon footprint. Trees and other plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and purify the air. Forests with trees such as the Amazon and rainforests in central Africa are said to be the lungs of the world. Our trees are equally vital," explains Thomas.

Each and every element in an ecosystem is dependent on numerous others for survival. This means that the absence of one species will almost certainly cause the decline of another. The majority of trees reproduce through their flowers and are dependant on indigenous pollinators such as birds, butterflies, moths and bees. However, today, many pollinators are threatened worldwide because indigenous land has been converted to commercial or agricultural use, and due to mono-culture planting.

Certainly the demise of any indigenous vegetation can have a detrimental effect on the natural environment. However it can also negatively affect human food production. Many of our crops are pollinated by insects. Thus the conservation of the indigenous plants that form part of this cycle is crucial to our survival on planet Earth.

Through education, Thomas belies that the public will be better equipped to preserve their natural environments, one of the reasons that she was motivated to write the Sappi Tree Spotting series, "If people know and understand any specific group of things, they can learn to love them, protect them and fight for them. Tree Spotting by its very nature promotes awareness about nature and the environment."

By making this one core aspect of the natural environment accessible to the lay person, Sappi Tree Spotting sparks their interest. The books provide an inexpensive, easy-to-access method of targeting specific trees that are not difficult to find. A full-colour, double page spread on each tree makes the information instantly digestible and simple to understand. "As each new Tree Spotter is born the future of conservation is strengthened," Thomas remarks.

The series covers the Lowveld, Highveld, Bushveld, KwaZulu Natal and the Cape. All of these areas have conserved parks where indigenous trees can be found, identified and enjoyed by visitors.

Commented Andre Oberholzer, Group Head Corporate Affairs for Sappi Limited: "Before the Sappi Tree Spotting series was created by Val, there existed no easy-to-access information on South Africa’s approximately 1,000 indigenous tree species. As Sappi relies on the natural environment for its renewable wood fibre, we are strongly committed to the responsible management of the land we own and manage, protecting and nurturing the natural environment and the rich biodiversity present in South Africa. The Tree Spotting series makes the world around us come alive and teaches us to appreciate the significant contributions that trees make to our lives."

Read more http://www.mediaweb.co.za/journalist/mnews_j_.asp?id=3603

Published in Science and Education