13 August, 2008

An Urban Marsh’s Unfinished Saga

From the Olfants to the Storms river, estuaries and other coastal wetland systems around the Cape are susceptible to problems similar to the situation described below in New York's Jamaica Bay. Strength to all you stalwarts helping to stave off such "developments".

New York’s Jamaica Bay serves as a microcosm for the world’s wetland woes. By Moises Velasquez-Manoff Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / August 5, 2008 edition

If we view cities as densely populated areas surrounded by increasingly less populated and wilder land, then New York’s Jamaica Bay wetlands present this phenomenon in reverse. The 39-square-mile saltwater marsh at the far eastern edge of Queens and Brooklyn is a piece of nature engulfed by the country’s largest metropolitan area. Since the mid-1990s, the marsh, which hosts a multitude of fish and bird species, has been disappearing at an accelerating rate.

“Something has dramatically changed,” says Dan T. Mundy, a battalion leader for the New York City Fire Department and a lifelong resident of Broad Channel, Queens, an island community in the bay. “The marsh has lost its ability to hold itself together.”

Scientists have a list of possible culprits. None – excess nutrients and the hardening of the bay’s shoreline, for example – is mutually exclusive. Indeed, the combination of several factors – what one scientist calls “a destructive synergy” – is likely behind the marsh’s degradation.

“We don’t think there’s necessarily a [single] smoking gun,” says Kim Tripp, director of the National Park Service’s Jamaica Bay Institute. “There’s basically been a snowball rolling downhill, and now it’s an avalanche.”

As such, the bay is something of a case study for the predicament of coastal wetlands in the United States and the world in general. Often, there’s not enough space for both wetlands and the sizable coastal population (53 percent, in the US) to coexist. Wetlands are drained, filled, and hemmed in by sea walls and bulkheads. Sediment deposition, necessary to counterbalance natural erosion, halts. With sea levels rising due to human-induced global warming, the wetlands, which could migrate inland in a pristine environment, drown.

City, state, and federal agencies are hashing out, and in some cases already implementing, various wetland-restoration strategies in Jamaica Bay. Proposed solutions include lowering nutrient influx and mimicking natural sedimentation by carting in sand. But the abiding question is, will these efforts address the underlying causes of marsh degradation?

As of 2003, only 37 percent of the marshland that existed here in 1951 remained. A 2001 report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) concluded that, at the then current rates of loss, the marshes would disappear by 2024. A 2007 update by the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Advisory Committee found that the loss had accelerated again, and revised the “no marsh” date to 2012.

Scientists and residents alike would like to avoid total marsh loss for a slew of reasons. The spongy soil, topped by tall grasses, buffers against storm surges. Many think that hurricane Katrina would have been less devastating had the Gulf Coast’s wetlands been intact and able to slow and absorb the storm surge. (Wetlands lining the Mississippi River could once soak up 60 days’ worth of floodwater, says the Environmental Protection Agency; what now remains can only hold 12 days’ worth.) A glance at a New York City flood-preparedness map shows that large swaths of Brooklyn and Queens directly behind Jamaica Bay are vulnerable to storm surges of only a few feet.

Wetland ecosystems also host a biodiversity rivaling that of coral reefs. They serve as a nursery for fish that, as adults, move to the open sea.

And they sequester carbon as peat, keeping climate-warming greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

At a July conference on wetlands in Brazil, scientists stressed the “carbon sink” function of wetlands. Worldwide, they estimate that, although they account for just 6 percent of the earth’s surface, the world’s wetlands – bogs, tundras, mangroves, swamps, and marshes – store between 10 and 20 percent of its terrestrial carbon. That’s an amount nearly equal the 771 gigatons already in the atmosphere. And if rising temperatures or more direct human disturbance lead to more wetland drying, scientists worry that the carbon released will further warm the planet.

“It’s a feedback loop,” says Eugene Turner, a professor at Louisiana State University’s Coastal Ecology Institute in Baton Rouge, who attended the Brazil conference. Sixty percent of the world’s wetlands have already been lost during the past century, according to conference organizers.

Saltwater marshes require specific conditions to thrive: enough seawater to stay wet, but not so much as to drown. Sea levels have already risen nearly a foot along the Eastern Seaboard during the past 150 years, due partly to subsidence and partly to thawing polar regions. Locally, dredging has further altered tidal fluctuations by changing the “prism” of the bay, says Larry Swanson, director of Stony Brook University’s Waste Reduction and Management Institute on Long Island. The increased depth amplifies the tide, with highs and lows 8 to 10 inches above and below historical extremes, he says.

“We’ve totally altered the bay in a physical sense,” he says. “You can’t do that and not have some impact.” Add that to sea-level rise, and, at times, there’s 1.5 to 2 feet of extra water, compared with 100 years ago, he says.

Four wastewater-treatment plants empty into the bay. Although treated, the plants’ effluent is still high in plant nutrients like nitrogen, a byproduct of human waste. Between 1990 and 1995, nitrogen influx to Jamaica Bay doubled. (It has since decreased somewhat.) That’s when residents noted an acceleration of the marsh loss, an observation later corroborated by the DEC. Although scientists are quick to point out that correlation does not prove causation, many suspect that excess nitrogen – currently between 30,000 to 40,000 lbs. daily – is contributing to marsh degradation.

The DEC has asked New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) to address Jamaica Bay’s water quality. In response, the DEP proposed a list of solutions in the 2007 Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan. Among other things, the list included upgrading wastewater-treatment plants to reduce the nitrogen load. But “there’s basically been a backsliding” since then, says Brad Sewell, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York.

Citing the failure of limiting nitrogen in halting marsh degradation in places like Long Island Sound, a more recent NYCDEP white paper obtained by the Monitor seems to deemphasize this approach, which, it estimates, could cost city residents $6 billion.
“Nitrogen levels have not been linked to marshland disappearance,” it states. “Upgrades will not attenuate this loss.”

But scientists have several working hypotheses explaining how excess nutrients may, in fact, harm wetlands. One is by making life too easy for the marsh grasses. “When plants get enough nutrients, they don’t produce as many roots,” says Dr. Turner. “When the storms come, they don’t have enough roots to hold the soil.”

Nutrients also spur algal blooms. When the algae dies, bacteria consume it and suck up oxygen. The story doesn’t end there, however. Another class of bacteria goes to work in these low oxygen areas. They use sulfates, a salt abundant in seawater, rather than oxygen to break down plant matter. And instead of exhaling carbon dioxide, they give off hydrogen sulfide. “That hydrogen sulfide is toxic to marsh plants in high concentrations,” says Alex Kolker, a research assistant professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. Spartina alterniflora, the dominant marsh grass here, can tolerate some sulfide, but “if you exceed the limits of its tolerance, it will die,” he says.

Help from oysters

Several restoration projects are already under way in Jamaica Bay. A pilot project is in the works to reintroduce oysters, absent since the 1930s. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water daily, clearing algae from the water.

“We know we can get them to survive,” says John McLaughlin, NYCDEP’s director of ecological services. “The next step is, can we get them to reproduce.”

Beginning in 2004, government agencies including the National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers planted spartina on hassocks fortified with dredged sand. Four years later, the restoration effort is considered a success. But ongoing losses are greater than what’s being restored. Without addressing the underlying causes of degradation, restoration efforts may not be sustainable in the long term, says Sewell.

Given the accelerating loss, some say there’s little time to waste. “We can’t just afford to let it go and not try to take all reasonable actions to keep it healthy,” says Mr. Swanson. “It may cost us in the short term, but [it’s] worth it in the long term.

21 July, 2008


WHEN: 29 July 2008, 14h00-17h00
VENUE: Ghost Frog Room, Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Kirstenbosch
Dr D.C.Le Maitre; Email: dlmaitre@csir.co.za; Ph: 021 888 2407
Cell: 072 337 0657; Dr Constansia Musvoto; Email: cmusvoto@csir.co.za
Ph: 012 841 4856; Cell: 0725381221; Please copy your replies to Ms Lynn Havinga (havinga@sanbi.org, Tel: +27 21 7998895) so she can make arrangements for refreshments.
The development of an ambitious and comprehensive 10-year Global Change Science Plan for the broader National System of Innovation forms a key component of the Global Change Grand Challenge implementation framework.
As a member of the South African Global Change science community you are invited to a regional information sharing and discussion session which forms part of the process of developing the National Global Change Science Plan.
This follows a national workshop which was held on 22 and 23 April 2008 in Pretoria where delegates were tasked with defining the research focal areas and kick off the process of defining the thematic priorities and potential work programmes associated with each. The workshop proposed that research under the National Global Change Science Plan for the next ten years should focus on two areas within the complex
regional system and its various components:
Focal Area 1: Understanding a complex regional system: Here the emphasis will be on understanding the processes and drivers of change in both the biophysical and social domains. Understanding system resilience will be a major area of interest.
Focal Area 2: Adaptive responses within a complex regional system: The
effective application of existing and new knowledge to meet societal needs and to build resilience of the interconnected system (including institutional) in support of societal benefits will form the core of this research focal area. More detail of the draft Science Plan will be made available at the workshop session and your input and comments on the contents will be invited at the session and via email or in the web-based discussion forum. The background to the development of the Global Change National Science Plan can be viewed at http://globalchange.grandchallengeonline.org/

09 July, 2008

Valuation of Wetland Services

Hi all Wetlanders

My colleague is currently reviewing various environmental valuation methods as part of his M.Sc research project. One of the valuation methods is referred to a Replacement or Substitute Cost Method. The replacement cost refers to the replacement of ecosystem functions with artificial structures and systems that will replicate the ecosystem function, such as water purification and retention, to determine its economic value. However, not all ecosystems can realistically be replaced or replicated by artificial structures and systems, making its use rather limited. An approach with the replacement cost method for wetlands would be to obtain engineering costs for the construction of water purification plants per mega-litre treating capacity and to use the total water treatment output of the wetland over a certain time period to obtain a value for the ecological function. I would appreciate it if you could refer this to some experts in this field who have either developed or knows of such costing models. There are a variety of variables that could be considered in such a model such as size of wetland in terms of volume of water treating/ storing capacity; treating efficiency (input TDS vs. output TDS).

This research project investigates a number of valuation methods,
legislation, locality specific variables and ease of application considering
various moderators. I can therefore not digress into too much detail and
such model will have to be demystified/ simplified with capacity for
assumptions and desktop work. This is unfortunately some compromises
environmental resources economics has to allow for, as our resources, time, and knowledge about the environment is limited.

Your inputs, recommendations, references and general comments/advise would be appreciated.


Stephan Du Toit (M.Sc Pr.Sci.Nat.), Specialist: Environmental Protection,
Mogale City Local Municipality, PO Box 94, KRUGERSDORP, 1740
083-306-3441; stephant@mogalecity.gov.za

17 June, 2008

Wetlands Forum meeting of 11 June 08

The presentations from the Forum meeting of 11 June 08 can be accessed below:

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and Wetlands of International Importance in South Africa by Kiruben Naicker, DEAT.

Working for Wetlands by Winston Coe of WfWetlands.

Working for Wetlands 2009/10 Planning by Nancy Job, for LRI

Look at the new colour version of the Wetlands Forum logo.

12 June, 2008


Carnival City JHB 18 - 22 August 2008

Dear Wetlands-L

We are runnining the Environmental Auditor Course on the 18-22 August 2008 Carnival City, Brakpan JHB.
Please download the booking form and fax your completed form to 011 485 4146:


Payment for ecosystem services

Following on previous discussion at Wetlands Forum meetings around payment for ecosystem services, this example from the Maloti Drakensberg is of interest.

Results of recent research in the Maloti Drakensberg Water is predicted to be the single biggest future development constraint in South Africa. A new water supply augmentation option has been identified which can promote local economic development in rural areas and create hundreds of jobs. Paying people to manage the Maloti Drakensberg catchment for enhanced water supply has been shown to be financially feasible. Recent research in the Maloti Drakensberg shows that robust vegetation cover in the upper catchments – through maintaining the recommended cattle carrying capacity and by burning the mountain grasslands in the spring every second year – can enhance water resources by:
• Reducing summer stormflows,
• increasing winter baseflows by an additional 13 million m3 and 4 million m3 in the upper
Thukela and upper Umzimvubu catchments respectively,
• reducing annual sediment yields by 1.3 million m3 and 5 million m3 in the upper Thukela and
upper Umzimvubu rivers, and
• sequestering 134,000 tonnes and 334,000 tonnes of carbon per year in the upper Thukela and
upper Umzimvubu rivers.
In essence, good land use practice in high rainfall mountain areas is good for water security, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services. The following services have high value, and can be traded:
• additional and more regular water supply for users - improving assurance of supply and adding value to both reticulated and raw water users,
• reduced sedimentation of water infrastructure and river ecosystems which reduces water storage and abstraction costs – thereby making cost savings,
• additional carbon sequestration which is tradable, and which also improves grassland productivity, and
• A range of other ecosystem services are also enhanced by this action such as reduced flooding, improved water quality, improved fishing, biodiversity conservation and improved grazing. These are economically beneficial to society but as yet cannot be traded in this location.
Importantly the management costs are at the most 20% of the direct value of tradable benefits, making this a financially attractive option. Improved management and rehabilitation will also result in 1,800 restoration jobs in the first 7 years, with some 500 permanent jobs.
Payment for ecosystem services is being implemented worldwide and has now been shown to have new and exciting applications here in South Africa. For more information go to http://www.futureworks.co.za/maloti_drakensberg_pes.htm to download the full report or contact Myles Mander from Futureworks at myles@futureworks.co.za or 031 764 6449



13:30 – 13:45 : Welcome and Chair’s Report
13:45 – 14:00: Simonsvlei Methods to Identify Wetland Plants Course by Wendy Hitchcock
14:00 – 14.40:
1) RAMSAR - An overview of Ramsar and what it means to have Ramsar status. Legislation to protect wetlands – looking to the future. By Kiruben Naicker / Stanley Tshitwamulomoni of DEAT
2) Important Bird Areas (IBAs), Ramsar and Wetlands by Vernon Head of BirdLife SA
14:40 – 15:10: Presenting the Working for Wetlands Draft Rehabilitation Plan for the Western Cape for 2009/10 By Nancy Job and Winston Coe
Discussion Points:
· Potential for Membership input to rehab plans
· Toward encouraging stewardship: ways of maximizing potential for interactions between WfWetlands projects and neighboring stakeholders.
15:40 – 16:00: Updates on Current Projects
· Update on wetland input to CAPE fine scale planning project - Kate Snaddon.
· Wetlands Workshop – Pat Holmes

10 March, 2008

Search For Wetland Restoration And Monitoring Employment Opportunities

Ben Stone-Francisco is looking for employment opportunities in the field of wetland restoration and monitoring. He has good experience in wetland restoration, management, and monitoring internationally. He managed the Heron's Head Park (HHP) wetland in San Francisco for many years, and was responsible for all aspects of land management, including all planning and implementing of restoration activities, collection and propagation of endemic plant species, and the necessary monitoring and maintenance to ensure the sustainable conservation of HHP and the surrounding natural
Contact Ben on: ben.stonefrancisco@yahoo.com


Water Week River Walk: The Friends of the Liesbeek invite you to join them on a walk and talk along the upper reaches of the Liesbeek. On Wednesday 19 March meet at 6.45pm in Winchester Rd below the Good Shepherd Church, Bishopscourt. Bring family and friends and some refreshments to enjoy afterwards. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a jersey. Dogs on leads with poopscoops are welcome. No charge.
Queries to Liz or Dave on 021-671-4553.

National Water Week starts on Monday 17 March and ends on World Water Day on Saturday 22 March.

By 2025 South Africa will be classified as "subject to water scarcity" along with 14 other African countries. By then our population will have doubled and we will not have enough to supply all our needs.

Therefore we need to protect our rivers, wetlands and underground water. We need to prevent wastage and pollution.

Remember: Water is life. Take good care of it.

· Clean yards, patios, pavements and driveways with brooms and you'll save about 200 litres of water.

· 60% of water evaporates if you water your garden between 11am and 4pm

· Wash your car over grass and use a bucket and save about 300 litres.

· Only rain in the drain. No soapy water, litter or dog faeces etc

· A shower uses 10 litres per minute and a bath 200 litres.

· More than 26 litres is wasted per day by one leaking tap.

· Fit water saving devices to your home.

Visit the MTN Science Centre at Canal Walk for free demos on 20 & 21 March 2008

06 March, 2008

Agenda for 12 March 08


13:30 – 14:00 : Welcome and Chair’s Report; Report back from Steering Committee meeting
Matters arising from previous minutes.

14:00 – 14.20: Rivers, Vleis and Wetlands - An Urban Management Perspective
By Barry Wood Pr. Eng, Manager: Catchment, Stormwater & River Management
Roads & Stormwater Department, City of Cape Town

14:20 – 14:45: Working for Wetlands progress report and plans for 2008/2009
By George Davis, Manager Urban Conservation Unit, SANBI

14:45 – 15:00: World Wetlands Day Report Back

15:00 – 15:30: TEA

15:30 – 16:00: World Wetlands Day Report Back (continued)

16:00 – 16:30: Membership Input & General Forum Business, Announcements & Publications
Up-coming events.

16:30: Closure

Opening of Self Guided Trail for the Blind at Silvermine River Wetlands

The Self Guided Trail for the blind at the Silvermine River Wetlands was opened on World Wetlands Day 2008. The trail is sponsored by the Rowland and Leta Hill Trust, BoE and WWF-SA. Two blind people and an enthusiastic group of children, their parents and a school teacher attended the opening event, which included an educational walk along the trail.


During the two weeks of 28 January to 7 February, various school groups from as far as Khayelitsha visited Zandvlei Nature Reserve to celebrate World Wetlands Day which falls on February 2nd. Many of these school children have never had a "wildlife experience" and come from disadvantaged communities who cannot afford to visit natural areas.

731 learners came from the following schools:

28/01/2008: Lwandle Public Primary
29/01/2008: Impendulol Primary
30/01/2008: Soyisile Primary
31/01/2008: Sosebenza Primary
04/02/2008: Meadowridge Primary
05/02/2008: Latana Primary and Zerilda Primary
06/02/2008: Cornflower Primary
07/02/2008: Mandalay Primary


They were brought to the Nature Reserve on "Themba" the Edu Train where they were given various lessons about the environment. Once at the reserve, they were taken on a tour through the reserve with bird identification charts. They were shown the special plants and took part in drama sessions to help understand the relationship between the urban and natural environments and the impacts they have on each other.

They took part in hands on experiments which helped them understand the functioning and importance of wetlands and estuaries and were treated to a live animal demonstration, an opportunity that some young learners never experience. Some learners were very scared but chose to overcome their fears if only for this day by holding some of the animals that we come into contact with at Zandvlei.

The holistic approach which the team at Zandvlei uses ensures that the learners leave with a good general knowledge of wetlands as well as an appreciation for the natural environment.

Many thanks to the people who made it possible: Mark Arendse (Education Officer Zandvlei), Fay Howa (Intern Zandvlei) Sebastian Osborne and Andrew Taylor (Nature Conservation students Zandvlei), Donna Dawson (International volunteer) and the Zandvlei Trust members who assisted with the preparation and hard work that went into the program. And thanks to the Metrorail Edutrain organisers and teachers for giving the next generation a memory to treasure.

Cassy Sheasby - Manager Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve


Cilla Bromley of GEESE reports on an energetic clean-up effort in the Glencairn wetlands on World Wetlands Day:

Our day began at 9 and ended some ten hours later, with an interval for lunch and refurbishment! We concentrated our efforts on the triangle of land in front of the Southern Right Hotel, Glencairn, through which the Els River passes. Our aim was twofold. One to collect up all the rubbish and two, to start clearing the Typha from that stretch of the Els River, below the Glen Road bridge. There was a splendid turn out of GEESE (Glencairn Education & Environmental Support Enthusiasts) and their friends - including Philipppa and Lloyd Huntly - ranging from under 5s to over 70s.

Armed with forks, saws, secateurs, shears, boots, and donkeys (the canvas kind) and the such like, we worked for a couple of hours. Two trailer loads of rubbish were taken to the dump and the mountain of cut Typha was removed by City Parks people the next day. The noise, laughter, mud and comraderie said it all! Then we retreated to the Southern Right Hotel where we were treated to tea, coffee and delicious sandwiches, followed by a presentation from Paul Jaques on what the old water mill up river would have been like.

Thanks to his computer skills it was graphically brought alive. In the afternoon, we inspected the ruins before walking down along the Els River back to the hotel for further refreshments. The evening ended with a most generous donation of R1,500 by the hotel to GEESE for our partnership in helping to keep the Vlei looking good, clean and healthy.

25 February, 2008

Simonsvlei Wetlands Trust

Check out the Simonsvlei Wetlands Trust

Simonsvlei is a concerned eco-citizen and serious about protecting and caring for the vlei or wetland on its property. Although located between the N1 highway and the busy R101, this wetland has a historical and ecological significance for Simonsvlei.

In order to protect its wetland for future generations, Simonsvlei has established the Simonsvlei Wetlands Trust. The primary aim of the trust is to develop a sustainable plan for the protection and rehabilitation of the area’s remaining wetlands, and to elevate the status of the wetlands by educating the community on its historical, economic and ecological importance.

A permanent link to the Simonsvlei Wetlands Trust has been added to the 'Friends of Western Cape Wetlands' section in the right hand sidebar of this blog

07 February, 2008

New Coordinated Water Bird Count (CWAC) project

February 2 was World Wetlands Day

The Avian Demography Unit's (ADU's) contribution was to launch the new website of the Coordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC) project.

The development of the site was sponsored by SANBI.

The main content of the site (found by drilling down from "CWC Data" on the left hand side menu on the CWAC site) is a tribute to the hundreds of CWACers who have faithfully counted the waterbirds at wetlands. CWAC started in 1992.

The site was designed by Michael Brooks at the ADU, and the CWAC project is coordinated by Marius Wheeler (marius.wheeler@uct.ac.za).

Spare a thought for the wetlands.

Professor Les Underhill
Director: Avian Demography Unit
Vice-President: International Ornithological Committee Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
Phone +27 21 650 3227 Cell 072 062 1140 Fax 021 650 3434

Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2

12th Pan-African Ornithological Congress, Goudini Spa, Cape Town
7-12 September 2008

25th International Ornithological Congress, Campos do Jordao, Brazil
22-28 August 2010

Western Cape Wetlands Forum - 2008 e-card

Enviro Kids Magazine - Wetlands Edition

Click on the images to display a larger image




R7.50 per copy + VAT + postage. Note: minimum order 6 copies
R7.00 per copy + VAT + p&p for 25+ copies
R6.50 per copy + VAT + p&p for 500+ copies
Quotes supplied on request
Magazines mail last week of February.
Deadline for orders: 5pm on Thursday 7 February 2008 - magazine goes for
printing on the 8th.

To order, press the reply button, fill in your details below and send.
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Feature articles:

1. Know your wetlands - Double page spread (DPS) on characteristics of wetlands, different types of wetlands in a catchment, the value of wetlands, threats and what people can do to help conserve them. Interactive children are asked to name wetlands in a a catchment illustration.

2. Exploring wetlands - 5 pages detailing how to sample wetlands, simple equipment required, and what you can expect to find at the water's edge, near the surface, in midwater and on the bottom. Pages contain clear photographs of animals and plants to be found as well as descriptive text.

3. Feathered tourists - A4 Featuring a Common Ringed Plover migrating to our wetlands. The article highlights the importance of Ramsar sites and wetland conservation.

4.Windows on our world: Wetlands Sections of a large poster produced as a learning resource by Pat Hoffmann of WATER, illustrate problems in wetlands. Interactive children are asked to identify which illustrations feature specific problems.

5. Story: Why the Flamingo stands on one leg - an African tale. Extra information and photos on flamingos.

6. iSimangaliso wetland game - a board game that takes you on a journey around Lake St Lucia to discover what the park has to offer and learn about this famous wetland.

7. Make a wetland for wildlife - how to make a small pond and attract a wetland community to your garden.

8. How can schools become water wise - A poster produced by Rand Water about how the Water Wise Education Team can help school learning programmes.

9. Jewels of the city - A4 featuring the importance of urban wetlands as a learning resource. The Edith Stephens Wetland Park in Cape Town is highlighted.

10. Saving the Kamfers Dam Flamingos - A4 Article detailing how an island refuge was built to help save Kimberley's Flamingos.

11. Kids in Parks: Visit the West Coast National Park A4 detailing what is special about this park and the educational programmes that are available.

12. Remaining content: Report on Eco-Schools: Celebrating 5 years; Froggie's colour-in Puzzles & Competitions; Letters 'n art and News.

EnviroKids is the junior magazine of the Wildlife & Environment Society of SA. This quarterly 32-page magazine is mailed to WESSA junior members, educators, enviro-clubs and libraries nationwide. Each issue has a different theme. Bulk orders are made available to other educational institutes and organisations. The magazine is useful for designing lessons, supporting the curriculum, enrichment and project material, to improve literacy, and for general information.

WESSA aims to promote 'Public participation in caring for the Earth.'

For more information contact the Editor.
Dr. Roberta Griffiths
EnviroKids Editor
Wildlife & Environment Society of SA
P.O. Box 30145
7966 Tokai
South Africa
Tel./Fax 021-6718344

02 February, 2008

World Wetlands Day - 2 February 2008

By Philippa Huntly

With more than half of South Africa’s wetlands already lost, chiefly due to unwise development and unsustainable farming practices, it is time we took our environmental laws a little more seriously.

The 2nd of February is World Wetlands Day. On this day all over the world environmental organizations try to raise awareness about wetlands, why they are important and how we can help protect those that remain.

Ramsar and World Wetlands Day
Wetlands became the focus for international concern back in 1971 when countries met at the little town of Ramsar on the edge of the Caspian sea in Iran to plan for the better protection and sustainable use of the world’s rapidly disappearing wetlands that were being lost to ill-considered development, pollution, forestry, drainage and overexploitation. South Africa is a signatory to the Ramsar convention and has 16 Ramsar sites, including those in the Western Cape - De Hoop Vlei, De Mond State Forest, Langebaan and Verlorenvlei.

World Wetlands Day is now celebrated as an annual event in recognition of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971. It has gained momentum in recent years with a growing awareness of the urgency of the environmental crisis we face. Many environmental groups, government agencies, schools and concerned citizens use this day, and the whole of February, as an opportunity to raise public awareness, and remind decision makers, of the value of wetlands. Each year the Ramsar theme changes. This year it is “Healthy wetlands, healthy people” – meaning quite literally that healthy, functioning wetlands give direct benefits to people.

What are Wetlands
Wetlands, or vleis are an ecosystem type that can vary greatly. There are numerous formal definitions. The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as: “areas of marsh, fen, peatlands or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters”.
There are many different kinds of wetlands, such as estuarine, delta, riverine, peatlands and mountain seeps. There are also many different names for wetlands such as vlei, marsh, fen, bog and pan. Sometimes the dominance of one kind of plant can define a wetland, such as Palmiet wetlands.

Palmiet Wetlands and floods in the Southern Cape
In the Southern Cape beautiful Palmiet wetlands used to be prevalent, however they are now highly threatened. Palmiet is a large plant, growing up to 2,5 m tall when undisturbed, with an even deeper root system designed to hold soil and to withstand flooding. In doing so it mitigates the effects of flooding, protecting the whole river system and by default any human built infrastructure on or close to floodplains. Take it away and pay the price, as shown in the post flooding photographs of the Duivenhoks River in the Southern Cape.

Hannes Muller of LandCare, a division of the Department of Agriculture, works constantly with farmers in the Southern Cape and Klein Karoo. Hannes and his colleagues are not only trying to stop the destruction of wetlands due to poor farming practices, but are also busy with wetland rehabilitation as well as alien clearing. Hannes says it is estimated that “over two thirds of the Palmiet wetlands in the Southern Cape have been completely destroyed, mostly due to unsustainable farming practices, as well as various types of unwise development. A lot of the destruction is at the hands of land owners who often know their actions are harmful and/or against the law”.

Floods have plagued the Southern Cape in recent years and the natural sponge effect that wetlands provide helps to mitigate the effects of flooding. Take the wetlands out of the river systems and the intensity of floods is increased hugely, wiping out agriculture, homes and other infrastructure, as in the town and rural area of Heidelberg when the Duivenhoks River floods. Some landowners upstream in the Duivenhoks system have rooted out Palmiet, canalized sections of the river, dug out peat beds (estimated to be between 7.5 and 10 000 years old) and the results are felt throughout the entire system. Mistakes or transgressions like these are made everywhere, and not only by private landowners and farmers, but also by Government Departments and Local Government. As with many environmental issues, those doing the most damage, often through ignorance, are not always the ones to pay the price.

Threats to Wetlands
Aside from unsustainable agriculture, unwise development is a major threat to wetlands. In many cases this means the draining, filling in and building on wetland sites. This not only kills the specific wetland system that has been built on but also has knock-on effects in the whole ecosystem. Invasion by alien plants is another major threat to wetlands. In the Western Cape many of our remaining wetlands are infested with alien plants, the most common being the Australian Acacias and Eucalyptus, Hyacinth and Parrots Feather. One of the aims of Working for Wetlands is to remove alien invasive plants and control their re-growth in an attempt to restore the proper functioning of wetlands.

Western Cape Wetlands Forum and Working for Wetlands
When the Working for Water Programme was launched into the public works sector in 1995, the way was cleared for creative thinking around the links between environmental management and social development. The Working for Wetlands Programme followed a few years later, and job creation projects that tackled wetland restoration and rehabilitation were initiated around the country. In order to provide the space for discussion amongst the different stakeholder groups concerned with wetlands, and to receive guidance for the prioritization of wetlands to be restored, a network of wetland forums was nurtured into being around the country by Working for Wetlands.

In the Western Cape, this process took hold in 2002, and over the past 5 years the Western Cape Wetlands Forum has built a comprehensive membership ranging from public sector managers and policy makers, through the wetland research community and NGOs to practitioners engaged in conservation and rehabilitation of wetlands. Included in the objectives of the Forum are: the promotion, amongst all sectors of society, of awareness and understanding of wetlands, their roles as part of both the natural and human environments, and the factors that affect them. Dr George Davis of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and current chair of the Forum, believes that the breadth of the membership is important for articulating and establishing the long-term objectives of wetland conservation. “We have recently established an explorative relationship with the Simonsvlei Winery in Klapmuts, who are interested in protecting and rehabilitating a piece of wetland alongside the N1. In synch with similar initiatives such as ‘biodiversity and wine’, we are hoping to encourage the process of ‘mainstreaming’ wetland appreciation and conservation into the mindset of South Africans who have had little exposure to both the biodiversity heritage that is linked to our wetlands, as well as to the critical ecosystem services that they provide, such as groundwater recharge, river health, flood attenuation, and a reliable water supply. The more we can involve the commercial sector in this type of approach, the better our chances of sustaining our total environment. The Wetlands Forum is a valuable tool in this process”.

Naturally it makes sense that it is in our collective interest to look after those remaining wetlands.

Photographs by Japie Buckle, Working for Wetlands

1. Homes damaged in Heidelberg after the flooding of the Duivenhoks River.
Coming soon

2. Pristine Palmiet wetlands remain intact after a flood, thereby protecting the whole river system from erosion.

Brochure for World Wetlands Day - 2 Feb 2008

A brochure is available with information about World Wetlands Day 2008
Click on the picture above to download the brochure from mediafire

30 January, 2008

Wetlands Poster

Click on the poster to display a larger image

This poster has been produced for learners - 1000 have been printed.
800 are being distributed via the City of Cape Town's YES schools programme and
200 via WCWF and WESSA.



This year our aim is to get the wetlands message to as wide an audience as possible for world wetlands day. We are targeting 3 main groups: decision makers (in business and gov), the general public and learners. With the help of many stakeholders, particularly WESSA, the City of Cape Town and Simonsvlei Wines, the Forum is doing the following:

Advert to address the general public to raise awareness:
The Forum is placing an advert in the Weekend Argus and Die Burger. Both newspapers will carry editorial on wetlands, how important they are to the environment and people and the threats they face.

Message to decision makers:
A “Happy Wetlands Day” e-card is being sent to decision makers in government, local municipalities and business. The message encourages thought about the decisions made in the course of business, development and planning.

Material for learners:
1000 of the Ramsar posters with a mini poster produced by the Forum are being put up in schools, community notice boards and at Universities.

The Forum has created its own blog: www.wetlandsforum.blogspot.com



In celebration of World Wetlands Day the Friends of the Liesbeek invite you to join them on a walk and talk around the wetlands of the lower Liesbeek. On Friday 1 February meet at 6pm on the Durban Road Bridge, Mowbray. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a jersey. Dogs with poop scoops welcome. No charge.

Liz or Dave



The programme below will take place at Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Fisherman's Walk Road, Zeekoevlei. Dates: 4 and 8 Feb 08

The target group for World Wetlands day is Grade 4-7. Learners can bring a snack and a drink with for a short break after the walk.

The itinerary for the visit:
* Introduction to Rondevlei
* A walk along the pathway using bird identification charts to identify birds at the bird hides
* Identification of animal spoor along the pathway
- Short interval
* Discussions about the animals and plants associated with the wetland, specifically at Rondevlei.
* Discussion about the importance of Wetlands in nature
* Discussion about it’s importance to humans.
* Threats to Wetlands and how to help.
* Walk through the museum.

Bookings are essential:
Bronwen Foster
Tel.: 021 706 2404,
Email: Bronwen.Foster@capetown.gov.za



Zandvlei Trust members will be assisting the Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve staff from 28/01/2008 to 08/02/2008 on the week days, when the Metrorail Edutrain will be bringing between 80 and 100 learners per day to Zandvlei to learn about the importance of Wetlands, celebrating World Wetlands Day.

Selected schools (by the Edutrain staff) from across the Cape Flats from as far as Tulbach, Wellington, Stellenbosch come to Zandvlei. The unique aspect of Zandvlei is that it is the only Reserve within walking distance to a railway station (public transport) in the Metropole.

Contact person:
Gavin Lawson
phone / fax 27 021 705 5224
email glawson@xsinet.co.za



The Hout Bay Heritage Trust has initiated and sourced funding for three wetland restoration projects for WWD08:

1) Linking Coastal Wetlands

Aim: To establish a corridor linking two rehabilitated wetlands within the Coastal zone of Hout Bay.
Dates: January - August 2008

2) Kronendal Project: Alien Removal in Hout Bay Wetland

Aim: To ringbark and poison the Gray poplar trees invading the western portion of the Hout Bay Wetland

3) Good Hope Sub-Council Ward Project: Cleaning up of Hout Bay Wetland

Aim: Clearing rubble adjacent to wetlands, maintaining the board walk and cutting of alien Spanish reeds.

Contact person:
Justin O’Riain
Tel: 021 6503645



Rotating poster display that goes from business to business in the light industrial area along the Keysers River to raise awareness and encourage participation in the Keyers river restoration project. Also aims to raise general awareness about wetlands.

Contact Person:
Mandy Noffke
021 7856871



Glencain Education and Environment Support Enthusiasts

Els River clean up, talk and walk. Date: 2nd Feb 08

* 09h00 meet outside the Sothern Right Hotel. Work Party to clean up the triangle of public land & the Els River in front of the Southern Right Hotel, Glen Road, Glencairn.
* 11h00 Refreshments at the Southern Right Hotel
* 11.45 Paul Jaques will give a presentation about the old water mill. Presentation in Southern Right Hotel.
- Break for Lunch - At the hotel, or take a picnic to the ruins of the Water Mill or have a well earned rest at home
* 16h00 Meet at the Water Mill. Paul will talk us through the ruins.

Then, those who are energetic will walk down the Els River to the Sea
* 17h30 Re-Assemble at the Southern Right Hotel for Drinks and Snacks

A big “Thank you” to the Southern Right Hotel

Contact person:
Cilla Bromley
021 782 6400
e-mail: cilla@bromley.co.za



Table Mountain National Park staff will lead an interactive wetlands walk and talk for grade 6 and 7 learners from Ukhanyo Primary School at the Noordhoek Wetlands bordering Masiphumelele (approx 60 learners).

This interpretive walk is on the 01 February 2008. After the walk, the learners will be invited to apply what they have learnt to enter a 'Ranger Challenge' competition: In groups of five they must pretend that they are Rangers and either write what about what they will/should do to
look after an indicated piece of the wetland, or draw a plan/map/picture that shows what they will do. The best group wins either a hiking trip to sleep on Table Mountain (People's Trail) or an overnight trip to West Coast National Park.

The awareness drive is ongoing in that a smaller group of interested learners will be helped by a teacher from the school and the People and Conservation Officer from the Park to form an eco-club which can 'adopt' a piece of the wetland close to Masiphumelele, which they will regularly visit with the rangers in the section to assist in its maintenance during the course of the year.

Future plans include that learners who remain inspired after the year and move up to the High School can be helped to start an eco-club at this school, and/or can join the new TMNP Youth Honorary Rangers program that is due to start up next year.

Contact person:
Crecilda van den Berg, Section Ranger for the Noordhoek Wetlands:
021 789 2456, or

Leighan Mossop, Senior Section Ranger for the Central Section of TMNP:
021 789 2457, or

Luyanda Lombo, People and Conservation Officer in TMNP:
021 789 2458


Cape Nature Porterville Area
Friday 1 Feb 08

Cape Nature guided tour of Jackalsvlei and Verlorenvlei wetlands for WfWetlands contractors. A talk about the importance of wetlands will be presented.

Heidi Nieuwoudt
022 9312900




Our next Co-ordinated Water Bird Count (CWAC) at the Botriviervlei and Kleinmond Estuary is due on Saturday, 2 February 2008. This coincides with World Wetlands Day, and what better way to contribute to the management of a healthy wetland!

We start at 07h00. The duration per section varies, but the last team usually finishes by not later than 12h00. We usually have a tea break during the count and a light lunch before we go home. Each person is responsible for bringing his/her own eats and drinks. Do remember that it is essential that everybody takes enough water or other liquid refreshments as it might be a very hot day. Also remember your sunscreen, hat and windbreaker, and, of course, your binoculars!

Mariana Delport
tel: 021 919 2282 or md@cape-ecotrous.co.za



The West Coast Field Studies Centre is proud to launch the Paarden Eiland Wetland Rehabilitation Project on the 02 February 2008, proudly sponsored by Totalgaz Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd. and Total Corporate Foundation for Biodiversity and the Sea.

Details of the launch:

Place: Brooklyn Chest Hospital
Time: To start at 10:00 am
Theme: Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People

A group of learners has been invited to attend the launch. The learners will partake in various educational activities to learn more about the Paarden Eiland Wetland and the WCFSCs involvement in conserving and rehabilitating the wetland.

Contact person:
Jennifer van Niekerk,
tel (021) 511 2384 or 084 626 7404

Wetland information from DWAF Perspective

DWAF is the South African national Department of Water Affairs and Forestry

Compiled by Ms Nyamande T.B

The National Water Act (NWA), 1998 (Act 36 of 1998), regards the Minister of DWAF1 as the public trustee of the nation's water resources and therefore acknowledges the Department's overall responsibility for and authority over the nation's water resources.

The ultimate aim of integrated water resource management is to achieve the sustainable use of water for the benefit of all users now and in the future. Recognising this, it is important to note that the protection of the water resource is imperative to ensure sustainability of the nation's water resources in the interests of all water users.

a. Definitions (NWA, 1998)

i) Water resource includes a watercourse, surface water, estuary, or aquifer;

ii) Watercourse means 
  • (a) a river or spring;
  • (b) a natural channel in which water flows regularly or intermittently;
  • (c) a wetland, lake or dam into which, or from which, water flows; and
  • (d) any collection of water which the Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, declare to be a watercourse,
and a reference to a watercourse includes, where relevant, its bed and banks;

iii) Wetland means land which is transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface, or the land is periodically covered with shallow water, and which land in normal circumstances supports or would support vegetation typically adapted to life in saturated soil.

b. Uses of water

According to s.21 of the NWA, water uses include consumptive & non-consumptive uses.

Consumptive uses are:

(a) taking,
(b) storing,
(c) Impeding or diverting the flow r
(d) Engaging in streamflow reduction activity (SFRA);
(e) Engaging in Controlled activities

non-consumptive components are

(f) discharging waste or wastewater into a water resource or
(g) on land by irrigation,
(h) disposing of heated water,
(i) altering the bed and banks of water courses,
(j) removing underground water by mining, and
(k) for recreational purposes (NWA 1998).

Water Use Authorisations:

Water authorisations are regulatory tools and strategies to address equity, maintain sustainability and access of water for different water uses, without compromising the integrity of the water resource. The following are authorization, which are issued by DWAF:

• Existing Lawful Water use,
• General Authorisation,
• ad hoc licences, and Compulsory licensing),

Before issuing a licence, among other relevant factors, the Reserve needs to be considered.

The Reserve means that quantity and quality of water required –

• to satisfy basic human needs by securing basic water supply, as prescribed under the Water Services Act, 1997 (Act No. 108 of 1997) for now or future, taking water from, or being supplied from the relevant water resources; and

• to protect aquatic ecosystems - to secure ecologically sustainable development and use of the relevant water resources (NWA 1998).

NB: DWAF Wetland Task Group (DWTG), through the mandate of DWAF national office is compiling a Position Paper to serve as implementation requirements for various DWAF Directorates and all Regions and CMAs.


National Water Act, 1998 (Act No. 36 of 1998)

City’s Youth Environmental School (YES) hosts Wetlands Awareness Programme

23 January 2008

The City of Cape Town’s Youth Environmental School (YES), co-ordinated by the Environmental Resource Management Department, will be hosting a Wetlands Awareness Programme from 28 January to 8 February.

The theme for World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2008, is Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People.

World Wetlands Day (WWD) was first celebrated in 1997, in celebration of the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Each year government agencies, non-governmental organisations and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits.

During World Wetlands Day this year, a few key topics that exemplify both the direct, positive effects on human health of maintaining healthy wetlands – such as the provision of food, clean water, pharmaceutical products etc. – and the direct negative effects of mismanaging wetlands that result in the impairment of our health and even the loss of life – such as through the effects of water-related diseases, burning peatlands, floods, and water pollution – will be highlighted.

The programme aims is to emphasise that the strong relationship between healthy functioning wetland ecosystems and human health underlines the importance of management strategies that support both the health of wetland ecosystems and the health of humans. And that the costs of poor management can be high. Wetland-related diseases, for example, claim the lives of more than 3 million people every year and bring suffering to many more.

The City will be supporting World Wetlands Day by hosting a Wetlands Awareness Programme in partnership with Metrorail’s Edutrain, the Western Cape Education Department’s Centre for Conservation Education, the Primary Science Programme (PSP), CapeNature and Century City Property Owners’ Association. The broader programme will comprise of the following:

Edutrain Programme:
Learners from the Urban Renewal areas of Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha will be travelling on the Edutrain to Zandvlei Wetlands Reserve where they will be learning and experiencing more about the importance of wetlands.

City of Cape Town Nature Reserves Programme:
Wetland education programmes will be running on several of the City’s Nature Reserves.

Edith Stephens Wetland Park Schools Wetlands Book Launch:
This guide to environmental activities for learners called: Learning about environment at the Edith Stephens Wetland Park for Grades 4 to 9 will be launched on 1 Feb at Edith Stephens Wetland Park. Learners will also use some of the activities in the book during their lesson on the day.

Delft Wetlands Programme:
CapeNature will be taking learners from Delft to the wetlands in their area to learn about the importance of wetlands and their uses and why we must conserve them.

Centre for Conservation Education (CCE) Programme:
Learners will be having lesson on the role of frogs in wetlands at the CCE.

Intaka Island Century City Wetlands Programme:
Learners will have a lesson and guided tour of the Intake Island Wetlands. Intaka, meaning ‘bird’ in Xhosa, is a unique example of nature conservation and property development co-existing in harmony and for mutual benefit.

TEL: 021 400-2201 FAX: 021 957 0023

CELL: 084 629 9305

021 552 6889

Minutes of the Wetlands Forum - 14 November 2008

The minutes of the Wetlands Forum of 14 November 2008 can be uploaded here


By Pat Reavell

In the S.W. Cape there are coastal fresh and brackish lagoons, as well as river systems all with some degree of protection. Small permanent dams have been formed recently by European settlers and contain a restricted aquatic invertebrate fauna, mainly of eurytopic and widely distributed species found elsewhere in cooler parts of South Africa.

However the natural seasonal winter pools , which dry up during the Mediterranean summer, contain many unique Western Cape endemics, mainly invertebrates such as; microcrustacea, water mites, a few water bugs, and many water beetle species endemic to this afromediterranean biome. These seasonal surface waters have lower temperatures than the permanent pools, and are covered by land plants during the dry season.

During the rainy season inundated vegetation triggers a microbial food base for a rapid succession of aquatic invertebrates many confined to these pools. The predatory backswimmer Notonecta lactitans and predatory diving beetles; Rhantus circurius, Hydropeplus trimaculatus, Primospes suturalis, Darwinhydrus solidus, Copelatus platynotus, and Andex insignis are characteristic . The lesser known water scavenger beetles or hydrophilidae contain even more species than the aforementioned Dytiscidae, and may contain many endemic species.

A range of flowering plants are confined to these pools, including the culturally important water hawthorn or waterblometjie. During the dry summer these plants either die back to underground storage organs, or become terrestrial.

A few frogs such as the cape river frog and clicking stream frog breed here and form food for various water birds.

From this brief report it should be clear that the protection of these pools is important. The major problem with permanent man made dams is that they contain predatory and disruptive alien fish such as bass, carp, and Mozambique kurper. Apart from changing the water clarity, the two bass species are voracious predators on most invertebrates. In the Helderberg Basin, there are some winter pools in Victoria flats an area which may be zoned for housing. Also AECI Heartlands property, and Lourens river floodplain have a few excellent winter pools. Sadly due to rapid housing expansion, many of the remaining pools are being lost thus a protection policy should be implemented for the remaining pools and ditches.