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Kill that banana passionfruit!

I am used to count. Scientists count all the time. They observe, name, count, organize, calculate all the time. I used to count plankton, tiny animals and plants floating it the oceans, feeding the whole trophic web of marine life. It is important to count plankton, if you want to have an idea of how much fish there is. I now count pines. Today I counted (and killed) 824 pines, 12 gum tree wildlings, 2 wholly nightshades and 2 banana passionfruit. It is satisfactorily to cut down wildlings of invasive species. It is a brutal action of killing, but it is making space for new species of trees that actually do belong here. Pines do not. Nor passionfruit or “whollies”.

There is a concept that is hard to understand if you are not an ecologist: the lower the number of species in a place, the lower the diversity of life, the lower the productivity of that place, that community of plants and animals. Ecosystems naturally containing several species are more productive than spaces with individual species. Productivity not as in monetary wealth, but creation of more life, of oxygen, of organic matter: the roots and the trunks that support the leaves that give us oxygen and suck up CO2. Biodiversity in the plant kingdom is very efficient in assimilating nutrients and solar energy, resulting in greater production of biomass, or matter, and in CO2 sequestration. The more a place is made of uniform species, usually for the intervention of man, the less of this matter will be created by the work of plants and the less CO2 will be used. Biodiversity or the variety of life also offers a numerous list of other services that a monospecific plantation like pine tree plantations cannot give: biodiversity offers more food crops, wood, disease resistance, soil remineralization, resistance to environmental changes and fires, medicines, fibers and other materials, stability in time, water purification, leisure and aesthetic values.

I’ve been recently told with excitement that there is a South African plant which is a champion of CO2 absorption. People will want to plant it and export it everywhere, it is already happening. But this will lower biodiversity, create spaces of lower productivity and at the end will probably suck up less CO2. This is a natural, ecological rule. This plant belongs to South Africa, it is food for elephants and kudus, and there it should remain. Otherwise in 20 years we will spend a lot of time cutting it out from natural spaces, as we are clearing now spaces from banana passionfruit, moth plants and whooly nightshades.

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