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A Synthesis of information on Widdringtonia cedarbergensis

(The Clanwilliam cedar)


By: P J Mustart

Report of the Botanical Society of SA , 2002. Updated 2008

1. THE CLANWILLIAM CEDAR: A unique South African conifer:

2. CEDAR DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT

3. CEDAR ECOLOGY

4. HISTORY OF THE DECLINE OF THE SPECIES


4.1 Archaeological records
4.2 Historical records

5. ATTEMPTS TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE CEDAR POPULATIONS: 1805 - 1987


5.1 Early recommendations for conservation measures
5.2 Control of harvesting
5.3 Control of grazing
5.4 Cedar plantings
5.5 Fire management

6. CURRENT CONSERVATION STATUS


6.1 The reasons for the current status of the cedar

7. PREDICTIONS REGARDING THE FUTURE VIABILITY OF CEDAR POPULATIONS


7.1 Mander's transition matrix model (1987)
7.2 Transition matrix model of Privett & Bond (1994)
7.3 Higgins et al models (2001)
7.4 Fox’s validification of the above models (2003)

8. GENETIC CONSIDERATIONS OF RE-ESTABLISHMENT

9. CEDAR MANAGEMENT: 1987 - 2000


9.1 General cedar area:
9.2 The cedar plantations:
9.3 The cedar reserve: the Cedar Restoration Programme
9.3.1 Progress achieved in the cedar reserve
9.3.2 Monitoring of seedling survival

10. CEDAR CONSERVATION AND COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION: 2000 ongoing

11. REFERENCES
Widdringtonia cedarbergensis (The Clanwilliam cedar)
A Synthesis of information

Initially this document was compiled to provide background information for a workshop in 2002, Cedar
conservation – the way forward, that was held at CapeNature’s premises in Porterville. It has
subsequently been updated in 2008

1. THE CLANWILLIAM CEDAR: A unique South African conifer:


Conifers (or gymnosperms) comprise an ancient group of plants that evolved in the Mesozoic period
225 - 65 m.y.a. (Farjon & Page 1999). However competition from the a new group of plants, the
evolutionary successful angiosperms, or flowering plants, which emerged 140 m.y.a. led to many
conifer extinctions by the end of the Mesozoic period. Surviving conifers "retreated" to cold, high
altitude regions, often where the soils are very infertile, where they escaped this angiosperm
dominance. Today, most of the world's 630 conifer species occur in the northern hemisphere, and
their slow growing, hard wood is an important source of our world's timber (eg. pines).
In the southern hemisphere conifers are also represented in many families, including species of
Podocarpaceae that occur in Southern Africa (eg. the yellowwoods Podocarpus elongatus, P.
henkelii, P.latifolius and Afrocarpus falcatus) as well as in Australia and the SW Pacific islands. The
only other conifers occurring in Southern Africa are found in the Cupressaceae family, namely
Juniperus procera (pencil cedar in Zimbabwe and Kenya) and four species of Widdringtonia, a genus
endemic to the sub-continent. These are: Widdringtonia nodiflora (mountain cypress, occurring in
mountainous areas from Western Cape to Malawi), W. schwarzii (Willowmore cedar, endemic to
Baviaanskloof in Eastern Cape), W. whytei (Malawi cedar, endemic to Malawi) and W.
cedarbergensis (Clanwilliam cedar, endemic to Cederberg mountains, Western Cape).
These Widdringtonia spp. are not true "cedars" and should, perhaps, more correctly be termed
"cypresses". However they share characteristics such as durable, fragrant wood with cedars like the
"cedars of Lebanon", Cedrus libani (Pinaceae), and are called as such.

Thus, Widdringtonia cedarbergensis represents one of about 630 global species of conifers,
and one of nine Southern African conifer species. It is one of four species in a genus that is
endemic to Southern Africa. Further, W. cedarbergensis is an endangered species that has
been given global importance due to being short-listed by the IUCN onto a list of 43 conifer
species worthy of special conservation attention. It warrants our efforts to do what we can to
prevent its extinction.

2. CEDAR DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT


The Clanwilliam cedar is a high altitude tree, currently occurring within an altitude range of about
800m to 1 650 m (most abundant between 1200m and 1400m) on quartzites of the Table Mountain
Group in the Cederberg mountains (Andrag 1977, Manders 1986a, Higgins et al 2001). Most cedars
occur on the Peninsula Sandstone Formation, with some stands in the east and north east on the

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Nardouw Sandstone Formation above the shale band. The only natural occurrence on the shale band
is in the east, where they grew prolifically forming the only remaining closed stand of cedars prior to
fire in 1985 (Manders 1985). They grow mainly on the eastern slopes in the northern areas, but are
not limited to any aspect elsewhere (Andrag 1977).
The climate of the Cederberg is Mediterranean with most of its annual rainfall occurring in winter, and
with hot, dry summers. The overall vegetation is fynbos comprising a complex variety of habitats and
a diverse vegetation. In the northern Cederberg area alone Taylor (1993, 1996) distinguished 26 plant
communities. He found that the main concentration of cedars occurred in an open woodland with a
mid-dense restioid understorey, and associated with protruding bedrock and cliffs. The cedar plant
community is not a well defined floristic unit, and the habitat is neither rare nor specialised, suggesting
that cedars may have been more widespread in the past. Further, none of the fynbos species typical
of this community are critically rare or narrowly endemic, suggesting that the cedar plant community
as a whole does not require special protection.
Recent studies by Higgins et al (2001) whereby the environmental preferences of the cedar were
investigated, confirmed the association of high (ca. 80%) rock cover with cedar distribution. Cedar
abundance was also associated with low vegetation cover, and with intermediate levels of solar
radiation in December.
The association of extant cedar trees with rocky areas is widely attributed to the protection thus
afforded from fire (Manders 1986a, Privett & Bond 1994, Higgins et al 2001, Fox 2003). The survival
of planted seedlings is also associated with the higher moisture regimes of rocky microhabitats
(Manders & Botha 1987, Mustart et al 1995), a factor also likely to influence its distribution. Other
suggestions that attribute the association of cedars with rocky habitats are the possibilities of directed
dispersion by baboons who take cones to rocky outcrops for eating; and the existence of underlying
water resources (Higgins et al 2001).

3. CEDAR ECOLOGY
Studies have shown poor correlation between rainfall and tree ring width of wood cellulose (surrogate
for growth) (Dunwiddie & La Marche 1980, Zucchini & Hiemstra 1983, February & Stock 1999)
implying that water is not a major limitation to the growth of the Clanwilliam cedar. It has been
suggested that the cedar has a deep root system allowing access to water irrespective of rainfall
variation (February & Stock 1998, 1999).
The Clanwilliam cedar grows in fire prone fynbos vegetation and is killed by fire. Modern thought on
the dynamics of cedar population ecology is dominated by this factor. Dependence on adequate seed
production, post-fire germination and seedling establishment of this obligate reseeding species is
critical to its persistence.
It is weakly serotinous. However, high levels of predation by beetles, baboons and rodents (Botha
1990) leave few cones remaining, making it in effect non-serotinous. The nut-like seeds take about 30
months to mature in their cones (Manders 1985, Botha 1990), with seeds being released after fire, or
after the cones are damaged. The wingless seeds drop to the ground and are poorly dispersed
(Manders 1985). The possibility of baboon-directed dispersal (Higgins et al 2001) is discussed above
(see 2).
Experimental work has shown that ground litter underneath stands of Widdringtonia cedarbergensis
suppresses germination of its seeds, hence much of the germination in the wild occurs after fire which
consumes the litter (Manders 1987a). However, inter-fire recruitment does occur, and multi-aged
cohorts are common (Midgley et al 1995, Fox 2003) as was evident in the cedar populations near the
Middelberg hut area (Mustart personal observation) which had not burned for about 100 years prior to
the 2001 fire. Fox (2003) found high inter-fire recruitment rates in two years that had had high annual

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rainfall, postulating that in the wetter Quaternary period when cedars were more abundant, it was rain
events rather than fire that stimulated cedar recruitment.
Fynbos vegetation in the Cederberg was shown to burn at an overall frequency of 11 - 15 years
(Brown et al. 1991). However, fire frequency has accelerated in some areas in more recent times - an
example is given by Fox (2003) in her study area where 6 fires occurred in 26 years (1977 – 2003).
Individuals produce first cones after about 12 years, reaching full reproductive maturity only after 30
years (Andrag 1977), a period far longer than the average fire interval in recent times.

4. HISTORY OF THE DECLINE OF THE SPECIES

4.1 Archaeological records


Analyses of fossil pollen deposits suggest that the cedar did not exist in widespread, dense forests
before present time (Meadows & Sugden 1991). However, it appears that it has declined steadily from
14 600 BP, and this is attributed to the climate becoming warmer and drier in the late Quaternary
resulting in fire regimes too severe for the cedar, as well as to pre-colonial, human-altered fire
regimes. Higgins et aI (2001) contest the evidence for the climate change hypothesis, citing Tyson &
Lindsay (1992) who suggest that whereas it was cooler 15 000 years ago, there is weak evidence for
it subsequently changing to drier in more recent times.
In any event, the pollen analyses showed a sharp decline in deposits during the past few centuries,
consistent with historical documentation of excessive harvesting during this time.

4.2 Historical records


Early Cape colonists by-passed the rugged Cederberg mountains during forays to the north of Cape
Town in the mid 17th Century, hence protecting the limited, but valuable cedar timber resources from
exploitation until the mid 18th Century after farmers had settled along the Olifants river (Luckhoff
1971, Andrag 1977).
The earliest known record of cedar trees was contained in a report by de Mist's Livestock and
Agricultural Commission in 1805 which inspected the Roggeveld and Hantam area (Smith 1955). It
was reported that half-castes made a living from cutting cedar timber extracted from the Cederberg
mountains. They produced substantial beams (3m long, 15 cm square) and planks (30-40 cm wide, 4
cm thick) for distribution to the wider area. The cedar "forest" was recorded as being 40 km long and 3
km wide. Concern was expressed at the wasteful, uncontrolled method of exploitation, and especially
at the destruction of young trees. The Commission obtained agreement from the local harvesters that
they would sow seed in the mountain kloofs in order to implement restoration of cedar populations.
In 1836 the British geographer, Sir James Alexander, who passed through the area, also commented
on the wasteful method of harvesting, as well as the practise of burning to improve pasture by which
many old trees and young plants were destroyed, and made a plea for preventing the future waste of
valuable cedar timber (Hubbard 1937).
Clearly, during the late 18th and much of the 19th Centuries, European settlers made great use of the
durable and beautiful cedar wood, the only available tree in the Cederberg, for the timber needs of the
wider region. A road was built in the Cederberg from Grootlandsvlaktes down to Welbedacht for
transporting the harvested timber which supplied the requirements for fences, furniture, floors, doors,
coffins and telephone poles. In 1879 over 7 000 pole trees were used for the telephone line between
Piketberg and Calvinia, such trees are now virtually unobtainable (Andrag 1977).

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5. ATTEMPTS TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE CEDAR POPULATIONS: 1805 - 1987

5.1 Early recommendations for conservation measures (1805 - 1836)


The recommendation of the de Mist Commission of 1805 to sow cedar seed into the species' natural
habitat represents the first attempt to conserve populations of cedar trees, and the first attempt to
conserve any forest species in South Africa (Smith 1955). It was the conceptual fore-runner of the late
20th Century pro-active Cedar Restoration Programme of Cape Nature Conservation (CNC) (see 9).
A plea by Sir James Alexander in 1836 for conservation measures echoed these sentiments (Hubbard
1937).

5.2 Control of harvesting (1876 ongoing)


In the latter part of the 19th Century various conservation measures were instigated to limit the
unsustainable exploitation of cedars. A Forest Ranger was appointed in 1876 to manage the newly
proclaimed Cederberg Crown Forest area. Three years later, in 1879, the forests were closed to the
sale of living cedars and only dead trees were sold to recognised sawyers (Luckhoff 1971). This
measure proved to be too little, too late. In 1883 the Superintendent of Woods and Forests deplored
the loss of adult and young trees such that there were virtually no accessible trees of commercial
value remaining. He also wrote that "the largest cedar standing is about 18 ft (5.5m) in girth and 70 ft
(21,3m) in height but it is a dwarf compared to the big trees whose stumps are still standing as
evidence of what size they were. These past giants must have been nearly double the girth of any
now standing" (Hubbard 1937). This correlates with Sir Alexander's description half a century before
of " a large tree of 36 ft (11 m) in girth, with 1 000 ft (305m) of plank sawn out of its giant arms"
(Smith 1955). Of interest in this regard are the sizes of current large cedars. Higgins et al (2001)
record that the three largest trees in a survey of 531 live trees were respectively 12 m ht, 5.5m
circumference; 8 m ht, 5.5m circumference; and 4 m ht, 6.2 m circumference. Almost 120 years later,
the largest trees remain smaller than those of earlier times.
In 1967 harvesting of dead cedars was stopped, as deliberate incendiarism was suspected by
prospective users (Luckhoff 1971)

5.3 Control of grazing (1891 ongoing)


Grazing of seedlings, as well as burning to stimulate new growth during which process mature and
young cedars were destroyed, was considered to be a factor in the decline of the species. Thus, in
1891 grazing by livestock was prohibited, but as this was difficult to implement, it was reversed in
1910. Grazing was once again stopped in 1937, except for two short periods during droughts in the
1960's and 1981. However, since the proclamation of the Cederberg as a Wilderness Area in 1973,
grazing on the whole is not permitted ( Andrag 1977, Manders 1986a).

5.4 Cedar plantings for timber (1896 - 1914)


In order to create a supply of readily available timber, and to alleviate pressure on natural populations,
large numbers of cedars were established in about 120 ha at Middelberg and Heuningvlei between
1896 and 1914. This was achieved both by sowing seed, and by planting out of 78 000 seedlings
reared at a nursery in Algeria. It was recorded that between 1900 and 1902 over 4 300 kg of seed was
used, an amount that would be difficult, if not impossible, to collect today (Andrag 1977).

5.5 Fire management (early 1900's ongoing)


Fire was recognised as a major force in the decline of cedar populations. Thus a variety of fire
management policies were used from the early 20th Century onwards in order to preserve cedar
numbers. Initially all cedar areas were protected from fire, later a four year burn cycle imposed, but
was reverted to a no-fire policy a few years later. In 1972 prescribed burning was introduced to
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prevent wild fires in summer that led to high cedar mortalities. Burning on a 12 year cycle when
vegetation was moist was instigated, but was pre-empted by two wild fires in 1975 that burnt most of
the cedar areas (Manders 1986a).

(For current fire policy see www.capenature.org.za)

6. CURRENT CONSERVATION STATUS


Widdringtonia cedarbergensis is classified as endangered (Hilton Taylor 1996), a category which is
defined by species that face a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future. Further global
conservation importance is accorded to the species in that a conifer specialist group appointed by the
IUCN has placed the cedar on a "short list" of 43 conifer species according to certain characteristics
such as uniqueness, extent of global distribution, and threats posed (Farjon & Page 1999). It is also
stated that the species is likely to become extinct unless the restoration programme to plant out
seedlings in the wild is continued (Schellevis & Schouten 1999).

6.1 The reasons for the current status of the cedar


What has caused the current plight of the cedar? Cedar enthusiasts argue passionately about it
(Mustart & Bond 1994). Reasons are attributed to one or a combination of the following:

i. Excessive harvesting (see 4.2 & 5.2) which has reduced and fragmented cedar populations to a
bottleneck situation from which it cannot recover.
ii. Livestock grazing which has destroyed young plants (see 4.2 & 5.3)
iii. Climate change over the past 14 000 years (Meadows & Sugden 1991) which may have led to
unfavourable environments and / or fire regimes for cedar persistence.
iv. Relatively recent human-induced global climate change of increased heat and dryness in
northwestern fynbos areas whereby cedar survival would be detrimentally impacted. This needs
documentation.
v. Inappropriate or altered fire regimes, whereby frequent fires lead to excessive death of young
plants, and intense wildfires which cause high adult mortality (Haynes & Kruger 1972, Andrag 1977,
Manders 1987b, Privett 1994a, Higgins et al 2001, Fox 2003). It is argued that prior to the influence
of man, the cedars might have existed in denser stands, with resulting suppression of understorey,
fire-prone fynbos vegetation, and less probability of frequent or intense fires (Manders 1987b). Hence
man-induced changes in the status of the cedar have led to unacceptable losses of mature trees in
natural wildfires, with subsequent small yield of seed and seedling recruitment. Trees take about 12
years to produce their first crop of seed-bearing cones, taking a further 10 years or so to build up
adequate seed reserves, thus it follows that the current trend of high frequency fires will lead to local
population extinctions (see 3).
vi. Excessive granivory and destruction of seedlings by rodents, dassies and baboons (De Hoog
1968, Andrag 1977)
vii. None of the above: the current cedar status is in a healthy condition, and has not been seriously
impacted by any of the above. Historical reports of excessive harvesting are 'romantic exaggerations”
(Higgins et al 2001). However, this study contradicts itself by finding that small alterations in
parameters do lead to cedar extinction (see 7.3). In this regard Fox’s finding that seed production had
diminished in certain areas (see 7.4), is significant.

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7. PREDICTIONS REGARDING THE FUTURE VIABILITY OF CEDAR POPULATIONS
During the past two decades there have been several studies which have aimed to determine whether
cedar populations are capable of persistence and expansion; whether they would become extinct
regardless of conservation management strategies; and which strategies would be most beneficial for
cedar persistence. Their findings are summarised below:

7.1 Mander's transition matrix model (1987b) is based on the probability of transitions between
various stages in the life cycle of the species. Data were gathered from permanent plots between
1970 to 1984 during which time two wildfires and two prescribed burns occurred. The transition from
seed to seedling was emphasised as the key life history phase. Results indicated that populations of
Widdringtonia cedarbergensis are capable of increasing in the absence of fire, and that to conserve
existing stands, there should be intervals of 15 to 20 years between fires. However, the severe wildfire
in 1988/9 caused far greater adult mortality, and less regeneration, than had been predicted,
emphasising the difficulty of working with data from only a few fires. To quote from Manders' paper -
"Harper's (1977) observation that the study of tree population dynamics is a study of short cuts is
particularly relevant in this case, where mature trees may reach an age in excess of 400 years".

Management recommendations from this study include:


a) The application of prescribed burns in cedar areas at intervals as close to 20 years as possible,
during late summer or autumn to minimise the death of adult trees (Manders et al 1990).

b) Re-establishment using seeds, after wildfires and prescribed burns

7.2 The transition matrix model of Privett & Bond (1994) incorporated mortality data collected
from prescribed and wild fires of various intensities in one prescribed and two wild fires between 1984
and 1989. Their results indicated that survival of the larger size classes was the key phase of the
cedar life cycle. Mortality of large tree sizes in hot wild fires at a frequency of 15 -20 years would lead
to unacceptable mortality and ultimately to local population extinctions. A fire interval of about 80 years
is necessary to enable populations to recover from intense, summer fires. However, late autumn/ early
winter prescribed burns which are relatively cool, at intervals of between 12 to 20 years, would enable
populations to expand.

Management recommendations from this study included:


a) In the general cedar area the threat of wild fires should be minimised by breaking up the vegetation
into a mosaic of different ages by relevant prescribed burning. To counter poor regeneration of cedars
after late autumn/winter burns, seedlings should be planted in such areas.

b) In the cedar reserve (see 9.3) short-term patch burning should be administered to reduce the
chance of wild fires, and to protect existing trees. Seedlings should be planted out in fire-protected,
rocky microsites. This strengthened the basis of the then existing Cedar Restoration Programme of
CNC (see 9.3).

7.3 Higgins et al (2001) modelled the population viability of cedar populations using re-worked
demographic data that had been collected by Manders (1986a) and Privett (1994a), as well as other
simulated parameters that would influence cedar persistence. They modelled different scenarios,
many of which predict the persistence of cedars. For example, when a modal fire interval of 9 years
was used, persistence was the outcome. However, their predictions that the cedar could persist under
some conditions without management intervention was counterbalanced by their finding that relatively
small changes in key processes could push it to extinction. For example, a 5% alteration in the
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parameters (s.a. fire interval, rock cover, completeness of burn, seed production, recruitment, growth
rate, back ground mortality) altered the outcomes dramatically, and rapid extinction of cedars was
predicted. Their conclusion was that the cedar is in a precarious situation, despite a recent survey
performed by them in 2001 incorporating 531 cedars throughout the area of their distribution. This
survey indicated a "healthy" spread of demographic stages, as well as a good seed production. Yet
their survey revealed a relative lack of the small stages (<20 cm in diameter), a phenomenon
concurring with Mander's findings (1987b).

Management recommendations from this study include:


a) Targeting fire intensity by prescribed late summer / early autumn burns coupled with planting of
seedlings, concurring with Privett & Bond (1994). Further agreement with Privett's recommendations
is to increase patchiness of fuels in order to reduce the completeness of burn, thus preventing
excessive tree mortality.

b) Selection of sites for seedling plantings using their model of cedar distribution

c) Selection of sites for seedling planting that are favourable for enhanced stem growth rates (more
research required in this regard).

7.4 Fox (2003) used long term data accumulated by Manders (1987b), as well as currently collected
(2003) field data of two small cedar populations, in order to test the validification of the above three
models of Manders (1987b), Privett (1994a) and Higgins et al (2001). She found that high fire
frequency (six fires in the 1977 to 2003 period) had led to a faster than predicted decline in cedar
populations than that predicted by Manders and Privett, while the Higgins et al model was more
accurate. Her study showed that the rate of decline had been rapid: a ten fold reduction in population
numbers, and little recruitment over the 26 year period of study. Seed production had declined, and
apart from trees that were protected by rocks, their numbers were severely impacted. There was
evidence of changes in vegetation due to the high frequency of fires – comparative photography
suggested an increase in the annual grass component, and a decrease in shrubs. An interesting
finding was that initial population size was a determinant of subsequent population size: below a
certain threshold, population expansion did not occur, while above the threshold population size
remained stable or increased somewhat.
However, she stresses that the study should be repeated with larger population sample sizes.

Management recommendations from this study include:


The study supports the practice of seedling plantings, and motivates for fire protection (removal of
vegetation round trees, and creation of fire breaks) in order to protect adult trees.

8. GENETIC CONSIDERATIONS IN RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CEDAR


Genetic studies on the Clanwilliam cedar indicate that it has not undergone a genetic bottleneck, and
that factors such as inbreeding depression, are not a cause of the current decline of the species
(Thomas & Bond 1997, Bond & Thomas unpublished). However genetic considerations are
important for the future of the species, and should be considered in the practicalities of any
restoration programme.
Indications are that sparsely occurring trees are more likely to self-pollinate thus leading to higher
inbreeding. In contrast, dense populations have a higher probability of cross-pollinating with
consequent less inbreeding effects. Other findings were that seed and seedling fitness (w.r.t seed
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germination, seedling size and drought survival) varied between different Cederberg populations, and
this variation correlated with genetic heterozygosity. Thus, fragmentation effects which lead to loss of
genetic diversity and consequent loss of fitness would need to be counteracted in attempts to restore
the species.

As a result of the above findings, Bond recommended the following:


i. that the seedling planting programme should be aimed to create "groves" of trees, as opposed to
small patches.

ii. since seed source influences seedling quality, the best sources s.a. from Crystal Pool, Diuwelsgat
and Heuningvlei areas, should be selected. Middleberg and Welbedacht produce inferior seed.

iii. in general, it was recommended that seed from a variety of areas be used, keeping the source
recorded throughout the seedling establishment stages so that results can be monitored.

9. CEDAR MANAGEMENT 1987 - 2000


Pro-active management and restoration of cedar populations was instigated in 1987 by Cape Nature
Conservation (CNC) (van der Merwe & Wessels 1993). In an attempt to prevent the continuing
decline of cedars, the distribution range of the species was divided into three zones and managed as
follows:

9.1 General cedar area:


This area encompassed the present distribution range of cedars, excluding the plantations and the
cedar reserve. In this area the management objective was maintenance of biodiversity, and the
cedars were afforded no special management protection. The area was subjected to the same fire
regime as that of the entire Cederberg Wilderness Area where an adaptive interference fire
management system was applied (Seydack 1992). Late summer / autumn fire occurring at
frequencies of 15 to 20 years were considered necessary for maintenance of biodiversity.

9.2 The cedar plantations:


The cedar plantations which were established in the early 1900's (see 5.4) were protected from fire by
the maintenance of fire breaks along their edges.

9.3 The cedar reserve: the Cedar Restoration Programme


Here management was directed towards pro-active conservation of cedars. The objectives involved:
a) An attempt to reduce the loss of adult trees in wild fires through manipulation of the fire regime.
b) An attempt to ensure adequate recruitment through the planting out in the field of nursery-reared
seedlings.

9.3.1 Progress achieved in the cedar reserve


In 1987, 5252 ha (ca. 21%) of the cedar range was demarcated as a "cedar reserve" . The location
was chosen because of an abundance of what was considered to be the ideal cedar habitat, i.e. cliffs
and rocky outcrops between the altitudes of 1050 and 1650 m (Andrag 1977); the presence of locally
extinct and depauperate populations; easy access via a network of tracks and footpaths; and the
proximity of the Welbedacht nursery,

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a) Fire management
The reserve was subjected to low intensity, "patch burning" of small areas in late autumn / early winter
at short intervals of three to four years to reduce fire loads, thereby decreasing adult mortality, as well
as to remove an allelopathic component which inhibits germination of cedar seedlings (Manders
1987a). Whereas this burning regime is not ideal for fynbos vegetation, it was argued that the
vegetation cover in such rocky terrain is too sparse to support extensive fires in any event. Further,
management found no evidence after 5 years of such a fire regime to support the suggestion that
Asteraceae species, in particular Stoebe plumosa would be favoured by these cool burns, and
eventually dominate the vegetation. However, there is some evidence to suggest that seeds of
myrmecochorous species require hot fires in order to germinate, and such species could be
disadvantaged by these cool burns. More research on these issues is required. As stated earlier, the
fynbos plant community in which the cedar occurs is widespread, and does not comprise any rare or
endemic species, thus no special protection need necessarily be applied (Taylor 1993) (see 2).

b) Planting out of nursery- reared seedlings


Experimental trials showed that seeds planted out in the wild have low levels of germination and
survival (Manders & Botha 1989). About 3% - 6% of planted seeds germinate, and 0.3% - 6% survive
the first summer. Seed losses were attributed to rodent granivory (Manders & Botha 1987). Thus it
was considered more effective to rear seedlings in controlled nursery conditions at Welbedacht,
before planting out in the wild.
Sites selected for planting out of the nursery-reared seedlings were rocky out crops which provide
shade, wind shelter, enhanced moisture and protection from fire (Andrag 1977, Manders & Botha
1987, Mustart et al 1995). Shading of seedlings also leads to enhanced seedling height (Manders
1986b), as was shown in an experimental, nursery-based experiment.
Between 1987 and 1994 there were annual plantings of 7 000 to 8 000 seedlings into newly burnt
sites by CNC Field Rangers. Each year about 6 ha was burnt and seedlings planted out at a density
of about 1 000 per ha.

c) Evaluation of the Cedar Restoration Programme (1993)


A workshop was held in 1993 to evaluate the Cedar Restoration Programme, and to consider the way
forward (Mustart 1993). Despite misgivings about the emphasis on single-species conservation to the
possible detriment of wider fynbos biodiversity, participants unanimously endorsed the continuation of
the project. It was agreed that the Clanwilliam cedar represents a charismatic species that easily
attracts the interest of a wider public and can be used as a catalyst for concern over other
conservation issues. One of the recommendations for the future included participation in the project
by the wider public. This led to the formation of the Botanical Society's Cederberg Interest Group
(CIG) in 1994 (Mustart & Privet 1998) which subsequently termed itself the Cederberg Conservation
Group (CCG).

d) Volunteer participation
Between 1995 and 1999 the seedling plantings were performed solely by BotSoc's CIG/CCG
volunteers who planted out lesser quantities, about 800 per year. Care was given to the choice of
suitable microsites for plantings, following studies done by Privett and Bond (1994) and Mustart et al
(1995) which indicated that microsites shaded by rocks significantly enhanced seedling survival.
During the above period and in subsequent years, girl learners from Herschel School (CapeTown)
assisted with the difficult task of collecting mature, seed-bearing cones in March, a difficult task as
trees were often in inaccessible, rocky habitats, and the weather usually very hot.

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e) Dismantling of the nursery, and financing for a new one
The seedling planting programme came to a halt in 2000 after the aging nursery was dismantled due
to lack of finances for its upkeep. Motivation by BotSoc's CCG in 2001 led to a donation of R27 000
by Fauna and Flora International for the erection of a new nursery. This new nursery was
subsequently established in 2003 at Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve on the eastern border of the
Cederberg Wilderness Area.

9.3.2 Monitoring of seedling survival


Monitoring the survival success of planted seedlings is vital in assessing the success of the overall
restoration programme (Mustart 1993). This was initiated by Mustart et al (1995), and subsequently
two full monitoring surveys were conducted by Privett (1994b) (Funded by WWF-SA) and Young
(1998) (Funded by Vredendal Winery, and BotSoc through the CIG). Privett set up a protocol with
permanent plots in the field, and a computer record system, for ongoing use by CNC.
The survival of seedlings was found to be remarkably high during the first 10 years or so after planting
out. Both the 1994 and 1998 monitoring surveys reported an average survival of over 60% for the
1987 - 1994 plantings by CNC when individually bagged seedlings were used. Later plantings which
were done by CIG volunteers resulted in lower survival of 30% to 40%. These plantings involved the
use of Styrofoam pannets in which seedlings had been germinated in small compartments. During the
process of transplantation, damage to the seedling roots is unavoidable, no doubt contributing to the
low survival rate.
The monitoring studies have indicated that two year old nursery-reared seedlings survive and perform
better than one year old ones (Privett 1994b, Mustart et al 1995, Young 1998). Seedling survival
needs to be regularly monitored, in order to establish the best methodology for seedling plantings.
This is particularly relevant after the recent years of drought (2005, 2006), and to establish levels of
fire-related mortality. Fires have indeed occurred in the above areas where seedlings were planted,
and documented monitoring of seedling survival needs to be re-established.

10. CEDAR CONSERVATION and COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION 2000 - ONGOING

a) Nursery establishment
The mother nursery established at Matjiesriver Nature Reserve in 2003 is managed by CapeNature
and the Cederberg Conservancy for the production of cedar seedlings. A satellite nursery at
Bushmans Kloof Reserve has been used since 2002.

b) Seed and seedling plantings


Since 2002 Bushmans Kloof has hosted annual cedar planting events in partnership with the
Botanical Society of SA and CapeNature. Initially these took the form of seed plantings for growth in
Bushmans Kloof’s nursery until large enough for planting out. In addition, young saplings were planted
out by guests in a grove on their reserve – while this grove does not fall within the natural distribution
range of the cedar, the purpose was to promote an interest in cedar conservation by visitors to the
area.
Since 2005 annual “cedar days” have taken place at Heuningvlei, a small village in the northern
Cederberg. At this event local communies participate in planting saplings in a grove, or woodlot, in the
village, as well as helping to plant out seedlings into the adjacent Wilderness Area within the lower
limit of the cedar’s natural distribution. GPS monitoring has enabled the survival of these seedlings to
be monitored. Overall survival of the combined 2005 – 2007 plantings is 27% (Rika du Plessis,
personal communication).
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c) Creation of fire breaks
After the extensive fires of late 2007 / early 2008 which destroyed many adult cedars, future seed
production is consequently impacted. In order to protect extant seed-producing mature cedars,
firebreaks have been made round cedar plantations in the Heuningvlei area, and more are planned to
protect populations in the De Rif, Langkloof and Middleberg areas.

d) Local community participation


Local community involvement has played a major role in the above “cedar days” (v d Spuy &
Atherstone 2007, Voget 2009): representatives from the Botanical Society, Bushmans Kloof
Wilderness Reserve, Cederberg Conservancy, Heuningvlei community, local schools (in particular
Elizabethfontein Primer, & Elandsfontein School) and the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor
have participated.

e) The cedar as an icon for conservation and education


The plight and conservation of the charismatic cedar easily attracts the interest of people of all ages.
The cedar has been used as an icon for engendering a wider interest and participation in
environmental issues by local communities and school children (Voget 2009). As part of a school
education programme in 2005, Kobie Hanekom conveyed the importance of, and threats to,
biodiversity in the Wilderness and surrounding Conservancy areas through the central motif of the
unique cedar tree. This has fulfilled the wish for it to be used in this way as expressed at the workshop
in 1993 (see 9.3.1 c).

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