March 8, 2011

Ecologies of Gold: The Past and Future Mining Landscapes of Johannesburg

We highly recommend the detailed slideshow titled Ecologies of Gold: The Past and Future Mining Landscapes of Johannesburg by Dorothy Tang & Andrew Watkins on Places [at] Design Observer. The narrative is wonderfully constructed but we were struck by the photographs, in particular the two that depict Johannesburg's trees.  With permission from Places Journal and the authors, we feature them below with the original descriptions.

Image: Urban tree canopy, Johannesburg, photo by Dorothy Tang
Beginning in the early 1900s, the city of Johannesburg introduced large shade trees to alleviate airborne dust from the mining belt. Originally a semi-arid grassland ecosystem, Johannesburg now boasts the largest urban canopy in the world. Most trees are alien species from other parts of the world, such as Jacaranda, Eucalyptus and English Oak, and many require large quantities of water for irrigation, an added burden to a region with limited water resources.
Image: Eucalyptus grove, Johannesburg, photo by Dorothy Tang
The native Australian tree Eucalyptus was introduced by Australian gold miners to provide strong timber support for deep shaft mining and related construction. In addition, its high evapotranspiration rate encouraged mining companies to plant it near the foot of mine dumps to capture excess contaminated run-off. Today eucalyptus presents a hazard in informal settlements because of its short life span; the falling limbs and trunks of overgrown mature trees are a hazard in communities that do not have the means to manage their growth.

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