Webster’s dictionary defines Savanna as: “a tropical or subtropical grassland containing scattered trees and drought-resistant undergrowth.” Why is this important? Well, Savanna is a very diverse ecosystem. You get the benefits of trees with the ability to graze the grass. This is a win win for all parties involved. Let’s take a look at why.
Trees act has huge nutrient pumps. They bring up water and minerals from deep within the soil. In many cases, these minerals are not available in just grass alone, their roots can’t go down far enough. So, if you are grazing livestock, they will get to eat the mineral rich leaves of the trees, which will in turn give you healthy animals. You cannot leave them around the same trees for too long or they will kill your trees. This will give you a small reduction in your mineral feeding costs if you are giving them mineral supplements. If your not grazing livestock, these trees are still pumping up these nutrients and making them available to other species, both plant and animal. Trees also act as a windbreak, provide a shady spot for wildlife and livestock and bring new species onto your land. The more biodiversity you have on your land, the stronger the ecosystem will be. A strong ecosystem translates into more security for your land, family and community.
If you have a heavily forested area you can create savanna by cutting down trees to ensure they are widely spaced. Don’t cut all of your trees down! The key here is that you are opening up the canopy so that light can reach the ground, which will allow grass to grow. If you don’t have a forested area, you can plant trees to create a savanna. This will take a lot longer than cutting down tress, because your trees will have to mature before you can get all of the benefits of a savanna. But, I still feel it’s worth it. Don’t waste the trees that you cut down. Use them for firewood, or Hugelkultur beds. Please check out my podcast on Hugelkultur beds here.
We have started to create savanna on Greg and Jan’s land. Check out some before and after pictures.
You can see in the “after” picture that the tree spacing is more spread out. And, truth be told, we need to take out some more trees to get more spacing. Not enough light will get down to the forest floor to allow grass to come up.
Greg also made a good point about creating savanna. Not only will it enable you to graze the area, which will increase biodiversity, but you are being taxed for the land anyway. The government makes no distinction between grass and forest. It makes a whole lot of sense to put it to use by grazing it. You could also plant cash crops in these areas if your not a grazer. Heck, you could even create a “food forest.”
You might be thinking that cutting down trees is a bad thing, because the mainstream consensus on this issue has conditioned us to view this practice as evil. However, trees that are more widely spaced will allow the ones that aren’t cut down to prosper. Their roots will spread deeper and further out to bring up even more nutrients and sequester more carbon. And, if you use the wood from the trees that you’ve cut down responsibly, you won’t be “wasting” the trees at all. Bigger, happier, healthier trees. And, if the grass below the trees is grazed properly, you will be building massive amounts of organic matter to feed soil life and livestock, which also sequesters carbon.
What are you experiences with creating savanna? I’d love to hear from someone else who is creating savanna, or just has an opinion on it!