Failing to see the forest for the fynbos

Francois Krige, Platbos Forest, owner of Krige Tree Services

Professors Tony Rebelo and William Bond are two brilliant scientists, and I hold their work in the utmost esteem. It is a pity that the compliment is not returned (“Tree-planting drive a threat to ecology, livelihoods” and “Trees come at a cost”, Bulletin letters, February 3)

When I first heard the term “fynbos blindness” it brought great relief to me. I assumed incorrectly that the term referred to those whose love for fynbos blinded them to other vegetation types under their noses.

I was wrong. “Fynbos blindness” refers to people who do not appreciate fynbos. I am a tree-centric person, an arborist and reforestation nutter, and a lover of Western Cape forests in particular and forests generally.

I also love walking in the fynbos and observing the lines between the burning and non-burning communities of plants, the fynbos and forest.

Having lived at Platbos Forest Reserve for a long time now, I have observed the interplay between the two: how forest and fynbos provide services to each other, they need each other.

It is hard to understand how academics can fail to see this, and simultaneously fail to make use of a simple internet search that will reveal many tree-planting initiatives in the Western Cape that are based on good science and amplify the work of fynbos conservation as well as preserve and extend biodiversity in the Western Cape.

Platbos Forest Reserve ranks high among these initiatives, and I am proud to be associated with it.

The professors present us with a false binary: fynbos versus plantation forestry with alien species. This is similar to me presenting a false binary of indigenous forest or monoculture agriculture. I would not do that and expect better of them.

The Western Cape may well be considered a fynbos biome, but it would be wrong not to recognise that within that biome there is indigenous forest. Indigenous forest is threatened, just like fynbos is, and needs to be protected and restored just like fynbos does. It is not either or.

Also, I would like to refer Professor Rebelo to the Centre for Invasion Biology. They will confirm that the polyphagous shot hole borer beetle has not yet escaped the Somerset West area. It is premature to condemn so many trees.