Professor Richard Cowling on Plot Clearing

have your say on St Francis TodayProfessor Cowling comments on Tuesday’s article ‘Damned if you Don’t so better you do’!

The concerns raised by some residents regarding the impact on wildlife of mechanical clearing of dense, mostly alien-invasive bush on vacant plots, open spaces and other undeveloped land in St Francis Bay, is understandable. There is no doubt that the habitats of some bush-seeking creatures are being destroyed.

But this must be seen in the context of the designated uses of these land parcels. None is allocated for nature conservation. Most are erven – small plots intended for homes and gardens. The wildlife they support will inevitably be displaced.

The larger parcels – public open space and undeveloped land – are not representative of our regions biodiversity. Like the erven, they too are densely infested with alien tress and indigenous shrubs such as taaibos and bitou.

Prior to the development of St Francis Bay, these areas would have experienced frequent fires, keeping the vegetation low and sustaining populations of all manner of wildlife adapted to these more open conditions. The absence of frequent, bush-destroying fires has resulted in massive bush encroachment throughout our area, and this has reduced the diversity of both plants and animals.

Therefore, the removal of bush is not a blow for biodiversity, its a boon. Cleared areas, provided the regrowth of alien trees (mainly rooikirans) is controlled, will sustain populations of low-growing herbs and shrubs that are becoming all to rare in our region.

The fact that wildlife can persist in urban areas is a plus, but not essential for the persistence of the biodiversity of our region. The St Francis region is well-endowed with nature reserves, which cover some 330 hectares. These reserves are expertly managed, and the wildlife routinely monitored, by FOSTER on behalf of the Kouga Municipality and Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. Managing vacant plots, undeveloped land and public open space for fuel reduction can complement our reserves by enabling the persistence of species requiring more open conditions. An excellent example is the open space north of the SPAR complex. Here the veld is mowed each year to create a park-like appearance of kershout bush clumps scattered in a matrix of grassy fynbos, the latter supporting large populations of our beautiful pink candelabra plant. This is the win-win situation that we are seeking.

So much for the negative aspects of bush clearing. The positive side is all too clear for St Francis residents: fuel reduction to curb the spread of wildfires! There is no need to elaborate on this point.

I do hope this account allays people’s concerns about the impact of bush clearing on wildlife. I am happy to respond to further concerns. Please send messages to

Thank you for putting the bush clearing activity into perspective Professor  –  Editor

2020 World Surf League Qualifying Series

2020 World Surf League Qualifying Series to Commence at Corona Open China Hosted by Wanning

Championship Tour competitor Paige Hareb (NZL) will return to Hainan Island this January for the Corona Open China Hosted by Wanning, Qualifying Series 5000 event which will kick start the 2020 WSL season. Credit: © WSL / Will Hayden-Smith

COOLANGATTA, QLD / AUS (Thursday, December 5, 2019) – The 2020 World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) is set to commence at the perfect lefthander of Riyue Bay on the Island of Hainan, China, for the Corona Open China hosted by Wanning

The combined men’s and women’s QS5,000 event is expected to see over 200 competitors from all around the globe, dueling it out for important qualifying points as they look to secure a place on the elite WSL Championship Tour. Some of surfing’s elite level competitors including Joan Duru (FRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) and Paige Hareb (NZL) have already entered the 2020 event.

“WSL is extremely excited to be returning to Hainan Island in China to kick start the 2020 WSL QS season,” said WSL Asia Pacific General Manager Andrew Stark. “The World Surf League has a great history of running fantastic events in China and the Corona Open China hosted by Wanning will be no exception. An event of this size will see an impressive field of international surfers descend on the area.’’

The Corona Open China hosted by Wanning marks a return to China for the WSL, who last ran an event in the region in 2017.

“Wanning is so excited to welcome the World Surf League back in 2020,” said Mayor Zhou of Wanning. “Wanning, on the island of Hainan is in a beautiful location that provides excellent weather and waves for surfers to enjoy. The Corona Open China hosted by Wanning is a very important event for Wanning and we’re excited about the potential growth for this event for many years to come.”

Walter Sun, Brand Director at Corona in China added, “Corona has been a proud partner of the WSL since 2015 and is thrilled to be the title sponsor of the event at Riyue Bay.  We look forward to expanding on our global involvement with surf through this amazing event in China”.

The 2020 Corona Open China hosted by Wanning will run from January 6 – 12 and be broadcast live on and on the free WSL App