Tree Removal Saves Water in Cape Town, South Africa

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After nearly running out of water, Cape Town, South Africa, is using a unique solution to rid its watersheds of thirsty non-native trees. This effort, a collaboration between TNC and the City of Cape Town, is a story of hope and hard work, and it shows the profound connection between healthy ecosystems and human survival.

How many steps are there in tree felling?

In 2018, TNC’s research showed that the invasive Australian acacias that grow in the mountains surrounding Cape Town were stealing nearly half a billion gallons of water a year from the city’s water supply. But removing the tree service was a risky and time-consuming task, especially in steep terrain. To help, Stafford recruited Thandeka Mayiji-Rafu, whose small company works with public agencies and landowners to clear invasive plants. Mayiji-Rafu quickly assembled an all-female team that, in 2019, began flying helicopters to remote sites, where they camped for two weeks. Then they rappelled down the mountainside on 500-foot ropes, cutting a ring of bark from around each tree’s trunk with handsaws (a process called “girdling”) to kill it.

TNC’s research found that if this is done across the city’s watersheds, the trees will be removed in just a few years and save Cape Town billions of gallons of water per year. That’s the equivalent of four months worth of water—at a fraction of the cost of other solutions such as desalination.

Tree trimming is an important part of maintaining a beautiful landscape at your home or business. However, some homeowners have questions about when to trim a tree and what types of trees need to be trimmed to keep them healthy and safe. Read this article to learn more about the different ways that a tree can be trimmed, and find answers to your most common questions.


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