|Indigenous forest behind a fringe of aliens|
The (other) aliens in question are largely Port Jackson wattle, a.k.a. long-leafed acacia - dense cohorts of Australian invasives that the Working-for-Water organisation battles right across South Africa. I decided to tackle just one small patch on a neighbouring slope. Which means tens of thousands of packed saplings, under and between which almost nothing grows; nothing nests in it or eats it; nothing curbs it but imported wasps who infect the trees with galls and hopefully prevent them seeding further.
|Sterile Port Jackson monoculture|
|After a couple of weeks: looks like Armageddon, little replacement |
growth as yet; I dread the possibility of a fire torching all this
dead biomass and setting the whole effort back again.
|After a few months: waist-high fynbos, dead wood rotting|
back into the earth, very little Jackson regrowth.
It's not an unambiguous process. Each tree killed still feels like, well, a death. I am also killing the larvae in the bolls of the wasps, who are in theory my allies. Each tree downed is releasing its carbon dioxide into the already saturated
|Knobwood, one of the hardy pioneer species that will form |
the beginnings of a new forest.
This is where the poo comes in. More and more creatures, from larvae to cattle, excreting fertile richness back into an acidified soil, feeding up the bacteria that break things into useable components, succouring the underworld fungal networks on which the above-ground vegetal kingdoms depend. Life dying back into fecundity. As T S Eliot memorably put it in Four Quartets, the soil which supports us is essentially "fur, flesh and faeces". Tell that to the fertiliser companies. So what follows is a little photographic paean to the potentialities of poo.
|Bushbuck's round pellets, often fresh and glossy atop|
the older, fading deposits.
|Porcupine's distinctive 'bullets'|
|Baboons like to park their coils on visually prominent spots sometimes:|
this example contained few granular seeds, as fruit is short in the drought.
|Bird droppings often spread seeds as well as nutrients: this one|
isn't likely to fertilise much, but makes a nice abstract.
|Bushpigs sometimes establish temporary middens,|
usually just where you want to walk.
|Cowpats can take some time to break down - but lift a corner|
and it's alive with hardworking little beetles and bugs...
|... some the spawn of this fellow: what exactly he intends to do with this huge|
dung-ball is a mystery - but in a day it's gone.
|And the cowpats are the birth-place of such|
magnificent silvery folk...
Visit Dan and Jill Wylie's books and art at www.netsoka.co.za