Humanity depends on healthy ecosystems that support and improve our quality of life. Without healthy ecosystems, the Earth will be uninhabitable for human life. The Living planet Index shows that currently wild species and natural ecosystems are under pressure across all biomes and regions of the world. This stems from the growing human population and its demand on the biosphere. Direct anthropogenic threats to biodiversity can generally be grouped under the following five headings:
- Habitat loss, fragmentation or change, especially due to agriculture
- Overexploitation of species, especially due to fishing and hunting
- The spread of invasive species or genes
- Climate change
Degradation of the environment has far reaching consequences, of which global warming, pollution, erosion, and the extinction of species are but a few. While most people perceive environmental degradation to be only a result of mining or agriculture, urbanisation counts under the top environmental degrading factors. Vegetation in urban areas is normally cleared during development, and then generally replaced by exotic species, some with a high invasive potential. It is thus no surprise that urban areas are currently rich sources from where invasive species spread.
Urban forests can provide many environmental, social and economic benefits to society.
The reduction in vegetative cover in these areas not only results in a lower biodiversity, but also seriously lowers the ability of the natural environment to buffer pollution in the urban areas. While the replacement of the indigenous vegetation with exotics may still help with pollutant removal, the exotics are normally more water thirsty. This in turn has an adverse effect on water resources, which are becoming limited in South Africa.
A healthy, natural environment can provide numerous services, such as habitat creation for animals, water purification and carbon sequestration. Nature also has a profound effect on the mental and physical well being of humans. It is therefore important to invest in a project where the health of the environment is addressed. By planting indigenous trees in areas where trees and plants have been extensively removed, or by replacing alien vegetation with indigenous vegetation, a dramatic improvement of the health of the local environment, as well as the health and happiness of the people living in the area, can be made. Planting trees will also, in the long term help address global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Clearly vegetation can have dramatic positive effects on the social wellbeing of humans, human health, environmental quality, and biodiversity and energy demand of cities. It is therefore important that urban planning and nature conservation techniques be developed and implemented to minimize the negative effects of urbanisation. Wild Route is currently busy with a project to increase the vegetation, particularly trees, for a local community in an informal settlement (Mamelodi) where current levels on urban greenness is quite low. We are also running an urban greening and habitat creation project in the Moreleta Spruit in Pretoria where current levels on green is high, but mostly attributed to exotic vegetation with little to no use for the local fauna.
For more information on these projects, or to get involved, please contact us!
We can also help to start your own greening project in your own area.