The Wilderness Foundation has been orchestrating thicket restoration on 70 hectares of degraded land, known as Robert’s Haven, in the Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve since 2004. Planting activities aim to restore the degraded ecosystem while also creating employment within the nearby Cambria community. The goals of the project are thus highly relevant, both ecologically and socially. Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) is a dominant species of the natural vegetation of this area, i.e. Valley Thicket, and is an ecosystem engineer. Restoration at Robert’s Haven has thus focussed on re-establishing the abundance and distribution of this species where it has been severely reduced by previous agricultural activities.
The natural species composition of thicket also comprises numerous tree species. Restoration efforts have thus included the planting of multiple woody canopy plants. Various planting methods have been used, with the aim to mimic the natural structure and composition of intact thicket vegetation. This demonstrates the project’s commitment to integrating ecological theory and research with restoration practise, and is a key factor contributing to the project’s potential to reach long-term ecosystem restoration goals.
Spec-Savers has been the major funder of the project for the last three years, through its Climate Eyes campaign. Through Spec-Savers’ assistance, the Wilderness Foundation has been able to plant an average of 4 000 trees per month.