Southern Cape celebrates World Wetlands Day 2023

“The Southern Cape and Garden Route is home to some of South Africa’s most spectacular wetland systems and they are playing a key role in the survival of critically endangered biodiversity throughout the region. However, the region is subjected to industrial-scale agriculture and unprecedented development and infrastructure,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

“Fortunately, most large wetland systems such as the Garden Route Lakes and Estuaries are under mandated protection by entities such as SANParks and CapeNature, co-managed by various coastal municipalities, and are regarded as priority conservation areas, which have a bearing on the survival of both terrestrial and marine species and dependent biodiversity.”

“Besides the biodiversity relevance of the Southern Cape lakes, beaches, wetlands, estuaries, rivers and streams, they are essentially what makes the region so special as no doubt it is one of the most scenic of places on the planet.”

According to Meiring, there is an inherent danger in being spectacularly scenic to the region, as everybody wants to own a piece of paradise, and over time the Garden Route has unfortunately become what many refer to as the Concrete Route, as thousands of new houses and developments have sprung up along the coast, with many more to come.

“Towns such as George, Knysna, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay have become small cities, and unspoilt places have become few and far between,” says Meiring.

“Perhaps the single biggest threat to the Southern Cape wetlands is invasive alien plants (IAPs) in the upper catchments of regional rivers which have a detrimental effect on the amounts of freshwater released to enable wetland systems to function optimally.”

“Over and above the negative effect of water scarcity, invasive alien plants displaced and destroyed thousands of hectares of indigenous plants and biodiversity in sensitive ecosystems. Unfortunately, private landowners responsible for managing invasive alien plants on their land, as dictated by various environmental laws and regulations, more often than not either ignore the problem or lack the resources to address the problem properly.”

Concludes Meiring, “The Garden Route Environmental Forum and all regional environmental management and conservation entities would like to call on private landowners to do all in their significant collective power to actively, and on an ongoing basis, eradicate and manage invasive alien plant growth on their land, and in the process make a big difference in the ecological survival of the Garden Route.”

Photo: Great Brak Estuary

The Great Brak River and estuary is an important home to thousands of birds and acts as a nursery for fish to replenish the Indian Ocean, but its fresh water supply is under threat due to invasive alien plants in its upper catchments on private land. (Photo: SCLI)

 Distributed on behalf of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF)

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