Mondi’s sustainable forestry model frames the management of Mondi South Africa’s forestry landholdings. Healthy, functional ecosystems – specifically the availability of water and healthy soils – are critically important for the long-term sustainability of Mondi’s tree growing operations, and ultimately its core business. The model also recognises the responsibility of Mondi to ensure that its forestry operations do not compromise the integrity of natural ecosystems on Mondi land and, where possible, beyond its boundaries.

Mondi manages approximately 250 000 ha of landholdings across KZN and southern Mpumalanga, including about 20-25% unplanted areas, the majority of which are important for conservation. These conservation areas, or ecological networks, are dominated by grasslands and wetlands, with natural forests and woodlands (savanna) ecosystems in some places.

These ecological networks are the focus of a long-standing research partnership between Mondi Group Sustainable Development department, Mondi South Africa’s forestry team, and the University of Stellenbosch’s Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology. The research findings have been developed into a set of key principles around the shape, size and placement of the ecological networks, and how they should be managed to optimise their effectiveness in conserving biodiversity.

Mondi South Africa’s forestry team also uses expert consultants to apply a streamlined environmental monitoring programme to determine whether our management interventions are working to maintain the environmental values of these ecological networks, including avoiding or mitigating key risks. The key monitoring programme elements include:

  • Selected parts of the ecological networks have been identified as high conservation value areas (HCVA). These HCVAs are subject to five-yearly flora and fauna assessments to determine if these values are being maintained.

  • A streamlined wetlands monitoring approach is being carried out in each of our operational units on a four-yearly basis. A rapid wetlands assessments approach is undertaken for a large sample of wetlands within a given operational unit, and then three wetlands are selected in that operational unit for more detailed assessments. The results are then workshopped with key operational staff to direct future management efforts.

  • Two priority river ecosystems are subject to quarterly freshwater monitoring assessments. Water quality is assessed at the points where selected rivers enter and exit Mondi plantations, using biomonitoring indices and water chemistry parameters as identified in collaboration with the freshwater consulting company, GroundTruth. The water quality at the exit point should be the same or better than it was when it entered the plantation. If not, then corrective action is required in terms of managing forestry operations or in terms of managing the riparian zones, wetlands and their buffers.

  • Invasive alien plants (IAP), which can have a negative impact on water and biodiversity and constitute a fire hazard, are notoriously challenging and costly to control. Invasive alien plant monitoring is another key assessment tool. IAP assessments are undertaken annually by external specialist consultants, in so doing providing an independent, objective assessment of the status of IAPs on Mondi South Africa’s forestry landholdings. The assessment results are then used to direct the IAP management efforts.

Ultimately, the focus of Mondi’s environmental monitoring programme is on ‘closing the loop’ – ensuring that the results are analysed and used to direct management actions so as to maintain or improve environmental performance going forward.

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