Forestry

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The Forest

Introduction

Forest Cover

Forest Uses

River Reserves

Nature Reserves

Bibliography

Introduction

Prior to the arrival of man, the island was covered with dense forests consisting mainly of tall and slow growing trees. On the low lying lands along the coast, Palm savannah was to be found. At low altitudes there were Diospyros/Elaeodendron forests and on the plateau, forests of Sapotaceae.

All of the Palm savannah disappeared very early on with the arrival and subsequent settlement of man early in the 17th century. That was very quickly followed by the disappearance of the Diospyros/Elaeodendron forests, cut down by the French for ship building and houses. Later on the British cut down large tracts of Sapotaceae forests to make way for habitation and cultivated fields.

The end result is that today less than 1% of the area of Mauritius is now covered with native vegetation, exotics having invaded much of the forests.

Forest Cover

The forest cover of Mauritius amounts to only 56,880 hectares, which barely represents 30% of the total surface area of the island. That surface cover is the absolute minimum required. Two thirds of this cover are privately owned forests (34 540 hectares), the remainder being state land forests.

6540 hectares of private forests are protected by law as mountain or river reserves and 4585 hectares of state forests are protected as nature or islets reserves.

A further 12000 hectares are forest plantations, 79% of which is planted with pine or other soft woods.(1994)

A classification of the Forest Land (1991)

I. Crown (State) Forest Lands
Area (Hectares)Total Area (Hectares)
(a) Plantations11916 11916
(b) Nature Reserves
  1. on the Mainland
  2. islets

4018

567



4585
(c ) Unplantable, protective or to be protected 47104710
TOTAL STATE FORESTS 21211
II. Pas Geometriques
  1. Plantations (estimated)
  2. Leased for grazing and tree planting
  3. Unproductive (rocky)
211

230

211

211

230

211
TOTAL "PAS GEOMETRIQUES" 652
III. Privately Owned Forest Lands
  1. (a)Reserves protected by Law
    1. Mountain Reserves
    2. River Reserves


3800

2740




6540
(b)Forest Lands, including scrub and grazing lands 28000
TOTAL PRIVATE FOREST 34540
TOTAL FOREST56403

Source: State of The Environment Report 1991

The Importance Of Forests And Their Uses

Forests are of utmost importance for soil conservation, the protection of water catchment areas and the conservation of fauna and flora. In Mauritius, the main economic use of forests is for the production of timber, poles and fuel wood and deer ranching (note that deer ranching can have detrimental effects on the forest when animals destroy young plants and in doing so prevent regeneration). The domestic production of timber meets only 30% of the local demand. The National Physical Development Plan estimates that about a quarter of the population relies on wood and wood charcoal as domestic fuel. This amount of wood is said to represent 80,000 tonnes of petroleum products.

River Reserves

River reserves are defined as being strips of privately owned land that borders both sides of a water course. Water courses are classified into three categories:

  1. River
  2. Rivulet
  3. Feeder

The width of river reserves in case of a river are 50 feet, for a rivulet 25 feet and for a feeder 10 feet. The purpose of river reserves is to provide a permanent tree cover along side water courses. This permanent tree cover is necessary to prevent soil erosion especially during the rainy season. The approximate area of river reserves is over 2000 hectares.

Interestingly enough, the legal protection of river reserves dates form 1769, when the French authorities of the time passed the first legislation needed to protect the tree cover of river reserves ( Article VI of "Reglement Economiques" of 1769).


Nature Reserves

In 1993 was proclaimed the Black River Gorges Nature Park. The first of its kind in Mauritius.

Click here for a map of nature reserves in Mauritius.

Protected areas in Mauritius

NameAreas in Hectares
National Parks
Black River National Park6574
Nature Reserves
Perrier1.5
Cabinet17.73
Corps De Garde90
Le Pouce68.8
Gouly Pere10.95
Les Mares5.1
Bois Sec5.91
Off Shore Island Reserves
Round Island169
Flat Island253.3
Gabriel42.2
Gunners Quoin75.98
Ile Aux Serpents31.66
Ile Aux Aigrettes24.69
Ilot Marianne1.98
Private Reserves run by the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences
Mondrain Nature Reserve5
Sir Emile Series Nature Reserve8
Mountain and River Reserves
Mountain Reserves3800
River Reserves2740



Bibliography

(1) Government Of Mauritius, White Paper For A National Conservation Strategy, July 1985

(2) Government Of Mauritius, State Of The Environment Report 1991

(3) Government Of Mauritius, National Physical Development Plan, Volume 1: Strategies And Policies, 1995

Last Update: Wednesday, February 25, 1998