Facilities Management's Landscaping and Environmental Sustainability teams collaborated to plant between 50 and 60 trees over the past couple of months on Stellenbosch University's campus, ending on a high note in celebrating Arbour Week during the first week of September 2021.
According to the initiators of the project, Christine Groenewald, engagement project coordinator, and Sivu Kweleta, senior horticulturist at Facilities Management, they, together with colleagues, suppliers and students have planted various trees on campus at buildings, such as the Engineering Faculty, the Old Main Building and the Krotoa Building – all at carefully selected spaces and allocated in appropriate areas within existing garden spaces.
"The collaborative effort between our environment sustainability and landscaping teams resulted in us planting 50 to 60 trees. We all know that trees create a greener and more oxygen-rich environment. It also helps to cool down our urban areas, increase the resilience of our ecosystems, and increase carbon sequestration," says Groenewald. The term carbon sequestration describes both natural and thoughtful processes by which CO2 is either removed from the atmosphere or diverted from emission sources and stored in the natural carbon sinks.
Groenewald says tree planting also enriches SU's biodiversity and help with the conservation of our biomes. The trees that were selected and planted varied from indigenous, water-wise and endemic trees, which adapt and survive in the weather conditions of the Stellenbosch area.
"Indigenous trees help create resilient ecosystems that can survive climate challenges like the recent drought we had. They help improve biodiversity and the sustainability of open spaces on campus. Most of the non-indigenous trees or plants use too much of our precious water resource, tend to become invasive, displace our rich biodiversity and disconnect our rich environmental, ecological services and are less resilient against pest and diseases Trees also help with the total ecosystem balance when one plants endemic and indigenous species," Kweleta says.
Nadeem Gafieldien, Director Property Services at Stellenbosch University's Facilities Management (SUFM), says the Environmental Sustainable Unit is currently rolling out a series of projects and engagements on campus that form part of SU's overall environmental sustainability strategy towards becoming a sustainable university. In using their division as a living laboratory, SUFM has since 2015 been putting systems and processes in place to start paving the way for the University to become a smart campus where data-led decision-making will result in solving problems and providing sustainable solutions for the future.
"We have even digitised our trees to measure and manage many of the influencing variables. In some cases, this information enabled us to replace some vegetation with the water-wise endemic and indigenous trees planted in the past few weeks," says Gafieldien.