An assessment of the state of KwaZulu-Natal Coastal Belt Forest and the impact of bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) on the forest understorey in Zimbali Coastal Resort.
Low & Rebelo (1996) and Rutherford & Westfall (1994) reported in their studies of biomes that the forest biome is the smallest and most fragmented biome in South Africa. Low & Rebelo (1996) estimated that indigenous coastal forest patches cover less than 500 000 ha. Bhugeloo et al. (2019) indicated in their study on urban indigenous forest cover that coastal forests are in decline in urban KwaZulu-Natal. McCracken et al. (2015) indicate in their book on the Forests of Durban that by 2013 only 6% of the Northern Coastal Forest complex of 1850 was still left. Alexander et al. (2019) reported in their study on the effects on eco-estate development, that there is, however, functional improvement of ecosystem services within eco-estates along the north-coast of KwaZulu-Natal with reference to land set aside for conservation. Kambaj et al. (2018) compared three Northern Coastal Forests and reported that anthropogenic impacts on North Coast Forests have led to higher species richness through plant species that accompany humans and that are atypical to the forest or are alien invaders.
Zimbali Coastal Resort was developed in 1996 by the Tongaat-Hulett Development Company on 456 hectares of coastal real estate. This development comprises of approximately 600 free-standing residential homes, 44 planned-unit developments scattered in the forest and around the 18 home golf course, and where there are tourism facilities such as the Zimbali Lodge, the Capital Hotel and recreational facilities such as the Valley of Pools and Bush Buck Club. The areas of natural forest known as Holy Hill, Bush Buck Club forest, Corkwood Drive forest and the strip of dune forest along the south-eastern boundary were left undeveloped. The quality of the forest inspired the developers to embrace a conservation ethos in the establishment of the development philosophy of “Real forest living”. The Zimbali Estate Management Association (ZEMA) is charged with the day-to-day maintenance and conservation actions required to protect the forest. Despite the importance of the forest as the basis for the Estate’s vision and ethos, not much is known about the forest’s morphology, integrity and composition. Records of the plants species present in the forest are anecdotal. Nichols (2004) reported that previous scientific studies conducted in the forest have been used in internal reports and are not readily available to review and while references to the studies have been located, the contents of the studies have not. Therefore, when it comes to the forest, its history is not clear, there is limited information on the successional trends associated with it, and a deeper understanding of the forest as a natural phenomenon is required.