The total mapped area of natural forest (also called indigenous forest) in South
Africa is approximately 0,5 million ha. The large Afro-temperate forests of the
southern Cape, although distributed close to the coast, are aligned with the inland
forest types of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province.
This is because the southernly temperate latitudes compensate for the altitude of
Historical change in indigenous forest area was investigated in the Karkloof/Balgowan
region of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands (Eeley, Lawes & Macfarlane 2002). A relatively
small reduction (less than 6%) in total forest area was recorded from 1944 to 1996
but there was a substantial loss of small forest patches (<0.5ha). This study
emphasised the importance of mapping indigenous forests at a fine scale (to include
forests patches less than 1 ha in extent). Earlier mapping projects, albeit at a
provincial or national scale, used a minimum mapping unit of 50 ha a scale - far
too large to capture the widely dispersed and patchy nature of indigenous forests
in the country.