Although wetlands are not the only solution for clean water, they are a key part of the answer.
Wetlands are complex, fascinating and dynamic. They are hardworking ecosystems that provide us with a range of benefits, including some that are not immediately apparent.
In providing these ecosystem services, healthy wetlands play an important role in keeping people healthy. They are valuable assets to farmers, downstream water users, communities living nearby and larger society. If we protect healthy wetlands and rehabilitate those that have been degraded, we can reduce suffering due to droughts, floods and compromised livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable members of society.
As urbanisation increases, so does the pressure to provide adequate sanitation and water. South Africa’s water resources are already well utilised and in many areas show signs of stress because of high demand. The answer to our looming water crisis does not lie only in complex and expensive engineering solutions. Nature provides robust and free technology, including ecosystem services provided by wetlands, which we should recognise, respect and protect.
|Sunset over Verlorenvlei, the Ramsar-proclaimed wetlands in the Western Cape. Read the blog “West Coast media trip: part 2 (Moutonshoek and Verlorenvlei)“|
What is a wetland?
Wetlands are areas in the landscape where the water in rivers and streams slows down and spreads out. This results in the sediments and nutrients in the water being deposited. Over time, wetlands become fertile areas that provide good habitat for plants (bulrushes, reeds, waterlilies and sedges) and a range of creatures (e.g. microbes, specialised waterbirds, insects etc). Hectare for hectare, there is more life in a healthy wetland than in almost any other habitat.
The National Wetland Inventory has mapped over 114,000 wetlands, ranging greatly in size and value and accounting for about 3,6% of South Africa’s surface area. Different wetland types supply different ecosystem services including provision of clean water and carbon storage. Through natural processes in their soils and plants, wetlands aid in improving water quality. They also reduce the damaging impacts of floods, help to control erosion, and contribute to more stable stream flow throughout the year. They supply wild food, grazing, building and craft materials to people, and are important refuges for specialised plants and wildlife. In urban areas they are important green spaces.
Wetlands and water
Wetlands play an important role in ensuring a steady supply of clean water, which is essential for human health. Where people use water directly from natural sources such as rivers, wetlands play a strong role in keeping people healthy. For those who get their water from taps, healthy wetlands in river systems contribute significantly to reducing the cost of purifying water.
Wetlands are uniquely designed to purify water through natural processes, acting like the kidneys of the landscape. Firstly, they slow down water flow and this allows sediments in the water to be deposited. Then, wetland plants, such as bulrushes and reeds, and wetland soils and microbes stabilise and store or use many pollutants including excess nutrients and toxins from sewage and agricultural chemicals and fertilisers. This helps reduce the possibility of excess nutrient enrichment downstream. They can also trap many heavy metals including cadmium, zinc and mercury that result from mining and industrial processes. The roots of some wetland plants secrete toxic substances that kill some pathogenic bacteria.
Wetlands also act like sponges, slowing down flood waters, storing water when it rains, and then releasing it slowly during the dry season, helping to ensure steady river flow. Special wetland soils such as peat are highly effective water stores and filters. Peat is able to hold a thousand times its own weight in water, which makes it valuable in a semi-arid country like South Africa. Some wetlands also play a role in recharging groundwater.
Life in wetlands
Wetlands are warehouses of biodiversity. They support plants and animals that are specially adapted to waterlogged environments and can live nowhere else. They also provide feeding, roosting and breeding sites for a range of other species. Even in urban areas they are important refuges for small mammals, birds and amphibians.
Some animals are completely dependant on wetlands, whilst others use wetlands for only part of their lives. For example, the Wattled crane is dependant on wetlands for breeding, and hippos use wetlands as a daytime refuge.
The rich diversity of waterbirds in southern Africa (totalling 130 species) is possible because of the many different types of wetlands across the sub-continent. The wetlands of southern Africa are of international importance as they are the southern destination for many migratory wading birds.
Wetlands and floods
Healthy wetlands help to reduce the impact of fast-flowing floods. Because they are generally flatter areas of marshy ground with reeds or other tall dense plants, they force river waters to slow down and spread out. Although much of the destructive impact of floods is related to people building their homes or roads in floodplains or farming too close to rivers and wetlands, the destruction of wetlands has further reduced the natural landscape’s ability to manage normal spikes in rain or drought cycles.
Palmiet wetlands are good examples of ecosystems that can effectively reduce the impact of floods. Where palmiet, a unique wetland plant, has been removed from wetlands, rivers frequently become highly sedimented and their banks are gouged out by unchecked floodwaters.
Wetlands and livelihoods
People have a long and intimate association with wetlands. In addition to contributing to the life-support services that sustain us, wetlands also provide many people with a livelihood, or a means of earning a living. Often it is poor people, especially in rural areas, who are most directly dependent on wetlands for their livelihoods.
If the livelihoods benefits that wetlands provide are to be sustainable, they must be used wisely. People have sustainable livelihoods if they can use available resources to earn a living without irreversibly depleting those resources.
On a subsistence level, these benefits range from wild food and grazing to materials for building and crafts. Purification and provision of clean water have enormous health benefits which in turn have economic and social impacts. On a mainstream economic level, several key tourism industries are based on wetlands, in some cases being the backbone of local economies. As the interest in indigenous fibre products grows, craft sales are becoming more important as a means for rural households to earn hard cash.
Food from wetlands
In addition to contributing to the life support services that sustain us, wetlands also provide many people with a livelihood, or means of earning a living. Often it is poor people, especially in rural areas, who are most directly dependent on wetlands for at least part of their livelihoods.
Foods can be harvested from wetlands, both wild and cultivated. In many parts of the world small mammals, aquatic snails, arthropods, insects, reptiles and amphibians are eaten widely. In South Africa, bullfrogs and cane rats are popular eating in many areas, both providing a rich source of protein. Cane rats prefer semi-aquatic environments in marshes and reedbeds.
Fish is probably the most obvious wetland food and is a significant wetland contributor to human health. Twenty one percent of animal protein in Africa comes from fish and in South Africa many communities depend on fish from freshwater lakes and rivers as well as estuaries and coastal shores. In Kosi Bay in Maputaland, the highly productive estuary is criss-crossed with traditional reed fish kraals which trap large adult fish as the tide goes out. About 40,000 kg of fish is caught every year in this area, most of it for family consumption, with the surplus sold.
Estuaries are important nurseries and breeding grounds for many economically important marine fish species. Some 20 such species, which are exploited commercially and recreationally, depend on these ecosystems for secure spawning sites, and many other species are dependent on estuaries for feeding and shelter. This means that much of the multi-million rand fishing industries that employ thousands of people indirectly rely on coastal wetlands to sustain the fish stocks that they exploit. These fish are also important for subsistence fishers.
There are also many edible wetland plants in South Africa. For example, the white, sweet-smelling flowers of waterblommetjies, Aponogeton distachyos, are made into waterblommetjie bredie which is eaten widely in the Western Cape. Another indigenous vegetable is the tuber of the blue water lily, Nymphae nouchali, which is roasted like potato. The rhizomes of bulrushes, Typha capensis, are dried and ground, to be eaten like cereal meal and swamp forests yield various fruits, nuts and leafy vegetables.
Subsistence farming in wetlands
In many rural communities produce from subsistence agriculture helps ensure that people have adequate nutrition. Vegetables from home gardens, milk from cattle and meat from household chickens and goats are often the most important food for many families.
In places such as Maputaland where the soils are sandy and lack nutrients, the edges of wetlands provide organic-rich, moist soils that are ideal for farming. The same is true in places such as Craigieburn in Mpumalanga where forced resettlement in the 1960’s and 1970’s resulted in large numbers of people occupying small areas of land, leaving wetlands as the only sites available for subsistence farming. For about 25% of the villagers living around Craigieburn, the wetlands are the only source of food and income and altogether about 70% of the local people use the wetlands in some way. In this extremely poor and HIV/Aids impacted region, most households are headed by women who may each care for up to nine children, many of whom are orphans. Rehabilitation of the Craigieburn wetlands contributes to food and livelihoods security in the area by protecting the wetlands that are used for subsistence agriculture.
Common crops such as cabbages are grown on the edges of wetlands and there are also some plants such as amadumbe that are grown in wetter soils. Its corms are eaten like potatoes and in fact make a much tastier alternative, and its leaves are eaten like spinach. Wetlands provide good, nutritious food for livestock and in fact, some wetlands can provide up to five times more grazing than terrestrial grasslands. However, it is important that wetlands are grazed wisely and that they are protected from overtrampling and degradation.
Many South African wetlands are used sustainably for low-density subsistence agriculture and sensitive grazing but most are not suitable for large-scale agriculture.
Medicine from wetlands
In South Africa traditional medicine is the preferred primary health care choice for about 70% of people, and every year 28 million South Africans use about 19,500 tons of medicinal plant material. Wetlands support a great diversity of plant species, some of which are used in traditional medicines.
The wetlands of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal yield the river pumpkin, Gunnera perpensa, which is used to ease childbirth and treat kidney and bladder infections. The leaves of the white arum lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica, which is widespread in wetlands throughout the country, are used to treat headaches and as a poultice. Eucomis comosa, (slender pineapple flower), is used to treat rheumatism, Ranunculus multifidus (common buttercup) is used to treat coughs, headaches, urinary complaints, throat ulcers, wounds and pain, and Manulea parviflora (pepper and salt) is used as a natural enema for children with intestinal disorders. The honey disa, Disa polygonoides, is found along the eastern coastline from the Eastern Cape to southern Mozambique, and is used to restore the voice after an illness. Urginea macrocentra (poison snake-head) is found in marshy ground near streams and treats roundworm and tapeworm.
Wetlands and disease
In South Africa, 16 million people have no reticulated sanitation and five million people have no access to potable water. This means that they are vulnerable to diseases associated with polluted water, including diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and bilharzia. Worldwide, 3 million people die each year from illnesses caused by contaminated water. Preventable water-borne diseases most affect children under five years old.
Water quality in rivers is reduced by pollution from mining and industrial processes, agriculture and sewage. Because of the concentration of the pollution and the destruction of water resources such as wetlands, natural systems are unable to cope. But where the pollution concentration is low, the plants, soils and microbes in wetlands help to reduce disease-causing organisms and pollutants. As important waterbird habitats, wetlands reduce the risk of contact between wild and domesticated birds such as chickens, and thereby substantially reduce the risk of spreading avian flu.
Wetlands are also a source of water-related diseases. For example, they provide habitat for the species that transmit malaria and bilharzia. Draining wetlands may be able to help control malaria in some areas, but many beneficial ecosystem services are lost in the process. Other disease management options, including provision of clean water, improved sanitation, and – importantly – good management of wetlands, should also be considered.
The health and well-being of people depends on maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Wetlands are vulnerable to a range of impacts that reduce their ability to continue providing their beneficial services to people. Direct impacts include draining wetlands for pastures and crops, and building infrastructure such as roads that impede and concentrate water flow. There are also severe ongoing impacts from pollution and erosion in catchments, excessive water abstraction, loss of vegetation cover, climate change and land use change. In some major catchments, up to 60% of the wetlands are already lost or severely degraded because of mining, agriculture, timber plantations and urban development.
Everyone is affected when wetlands are degraded. In urban areas, it might mean reduced water quality, or even a reduced supply, as well as infrastructure loss from more destructive flood impacts. In rural areas, those who rely on wetlands for their livelihoods lose important benefits, and as rural areas degrade, those people are forced to relocate to cities. Many waterbird populations have declined because of wetland degradation e.g. the Wattled crane.
Wetlands in heavily industrialised parts of the country are irreplaceable as water purifiers. For example, the peatlands of the Klip River in southern Johannesburg have absorbed the pollution of 150 years of gold mining in the western Witwatersrand, as well as more recent industrial and urban pollution. This has resulted in higher water quality for downstream users than would be the case had there been no wetlands. Degradation of these wetlands not only reduced their ability to purify water, but also resulted in the release of trapped pollutants.
But degradation is not necessarily permanent, and international and South African experience has shown that it is possible to recover some of the health and values of degraded wetlands through rehabilitation. Legislation of the departments of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries; Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation; and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) protects wetlands and encourages their rehabilitation.
Wetland rehabilitation is the action taken to reverse or halt the decline of the health of the ecosystem.
Working for Wetlands
Working for Wetlands uses wetland rehabilitation as a vehicle for both poverty alleviation and the wise use of wetlands, following an approach that centres on co-operative governance and partnerships.
The Programme is managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on behalf of the departments of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation (DHSWS). With funding provided by DEFF and DHSWS, Working for Wetlands forms part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which seeks to draw unemployed people into the productive sector of South Africa’s economy, gaining skills while they work and increasing their capacity to earn income. The Programme creates jobs while rehabilitating wetlands and enhancing biodiversity.
Using wetlands on your farm
Wetlands provide specific agricultural opportunities – mainly winter grazing and some opportunities for cropping and fibre harvesting. A hectare of wetland may have the potential to support the grazing of up to five times more animals than a hectare of terrestrial grassland, but this has to be managed carefully to avoid overgrazing and degradation. Wetlands provide fertile beds for crops, and opportunities for improving household food security through small-scale and subsistence cultivation, especially in areas of the country where soils are unsuitable for agriculture.
But wetlands are not suitable for large-scale or commercial cultivation, and farming in wetlands is sustainable only if it is undertaken on a very small scale and in a way that is sensitive to the hydrology and other workings of the wetland. For example, crops that can tolerate wet conditions can be planted in the less sensitive parts of the wetland and on the edges of the wetland, and clearing of wetland vegetation such as reeds and palmiet should be avoided. Experience has shown that when wetland vegetation is cleared, the wetland is less able to reduce the damaging impact of floods, and vegetation loss also increases erosion risks.
The following guidelines are intended to improve the sustainability of wetlands that are already being cultivated. The conversion of healthy wetlands for cropping is not encouraged. If in doubt about the impact of agricultural activities on wetlands, it is recommended that you contact the relevant agricultural authority or extension workers from the Mondi Wetlands Programme for assistance.The general rule is that wetland users should not substantially disrupt the basic fabric of the wetland, which consists of the elements of soil, water and vegetation. It is through the interaction between these elements that wetlands are able to generate the range of functions and products that benefit people. If a wetland is transformed in a way that compromises its ability to function, it may lose its ability to provide these valuable services.
Use our wetlands wisely
The concept of wise use thus requires an approach to management through which benefits can be enjoyed without changing the natural functioning of the wetland. Some examples of agricultural wise use include:
- limited livestock grazing
- controlled water extraction such as watering animals and a little irrigation
- careful cropping without digging too many drains
What actions to avoid in a wetland
The following are guaranteed to impact negatively on your wetlands:
- Don’t dig large drains (deeper or wider than 30cm) in a wetland. A drain in a wetland is like pulling the plug out of a bath of water and results in the severe drying out of the wetland such that loses its ability to provide many of its benefits.
- Prevent overgrazing and over trampling, especially in the wet season. This can cause erosion points that eventually develop into dongas which drain the water out of the wetland, reduce water quality and increase soil loss.
- Avoid burning your wetland every year, especially with very hot fires at the wrong time of year. This will destroy the vegetation, reduce the diversity of plant species and may result in erosion.
Productivity levels in wetlands are high although the quality of forage produced by wetland plants is typically low. Nevertheless, wetland forage quality can be improved by judicious burning. The productivity of wetlands plants can be exploited for grazing. On average the grazing capacity (biomass) in the outer zones of a wetland is 1,5 times higher than in an equivalent area of non-wetland, but this is dependent on many factors such as species composition and the wetness cycles.
What you should do if you are grazing in a wetland:
- Use wetlands for grazing mainly in the dry season so that cattle do not churn up very wet soils, making them susceptible to erosion.
- Keep cattle on the outer edges of a wetland, away from the permanently saturated areas.
- Watch carefully for overgrazing and find out how to correctly graze a wetland. (e.g. carrying capacity, when to graze, for how long, and resting periods).
What you shouldn’t do:
- Do not allow grazing in the rainy season or when the ground is very wet because cattle may disturb the soil surface through trampling, which results in decreased water quality and increased risk of erosion.
- Don’t allow cattle into the wettest part of the wetland where they can cause disturbance to the highly sensitive ‘core’ of the wetland, and often get stuck.
- Don’t allow heavy grazing without any rest periods. This may cause valuable, sweet (or highly nutritional) grasses to be replaced by less palatable or useful species.
- Don’t let animals overgraze, or the protective plant cover of the wetland will be removed resulting in erosion and the drying out of the wetland.
- Avoid the following kinds of wetlands for grazing because they erode easily when disturbed by trampling and grazing: wetlands with loose soil, on steeper slopes and where water starts concentrating into a channel.
Wetlands are burnt for many reasons, including improving the grazing value for livestock by removing old dead plant material and increasing productivity; controlling alien plants; reducing the risk of run-away fires; and improving habitat for wetland dependant species. If done incorrectly, burning can have unintended negative consequences, so it is critical to follow the correct approach.
Good burning tips:
- You can burn the wetland about every second year if the rainfall is more than 800 mm per year. Burn every third or fourth year if you are in a very dry part of the country (less than 800 mm per year). Burning needs also depend on grazing pressure. If the wetland is grazed to its carrying capacity then you need to burn less frequently or even not at all.
- If you can, divide your wetland into burning blocks and burn only half of each block. This allows for the unburnt part to provide refuge for wildlife. Where this is not practical, and you have a few wetlands near each other, burn one entire wetland and leave the others unburnt.
- It’s a good idea to use cool fires, so burn when the grass is moist after rain, or in the evenings or early mornings after dew.
- Burn at the beginning of the growing season, just after the first rains so that plants can regrow quickly.
- Burn with the wind as this is more controllable and less damaging to plant growth points.
- Keep records of when you burn, where you burn and the conditions under which you burnt so that you can improve your burning techniques and share the knowledge with your neighbours.
What you shouldn’t do:
- Avoid burning in early winter.
- Never burn a wetland when it is totally dry, because if the wetland soils have a high organic content, this can result in underground fires that are difficult to control and potentially last years.
- Extremely hot slow moving fires can even kill wetland plant root systems. With no protective cover, soil erosion sets in. Hot fires may also kill off certain plants and change the range of different plants that grow in the wetland, which can reduce its usefulness for grazing.
- Delay burning to another day or even year if in dry years there is a danger of soil ignition, when weather conditions are consistently unsuitable or if winter breeding animals (e.g. Wattled cranes) have not completed breeding.
Planting crops in a wetland
One of the controversial agricultural uses for wetlands is for the cultivation of crops. It is possible to plant some types of crops in wetlands in such a way that does not affect the functioning of the wetland. Cultivation in wetlands is regulated by the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA), and a permit is required from the relevant agricultural department for cultivating in wetlands.
Planting of crops in a wetland should never involve the draining and planting of the entire wetland with crops, because this will affect the natural properties of the system and destroy many of the other benefits provided by the wetland.
Useful tips if you are planting in wetlands:
- Select crops that do not need much artificial drainage or dry soils to survive. Amadumbe and certain indigenous pastures are good choices.
- Because of the risks of flooding and soil loss you should plant at the outside edges of the wetland, rather than right in the middle or in the lowest part of the wetland.
- Try to plant with minimum disturbance. Plant by hand. Dig only as much as is absolutely necessary.
- Use the wetland plants that you clear away as a mulch to cover the soil.
- Use as little fertiliser and pesticides as possible, because these will seep into the water and can be polluting.
- Patchwork cultivation is a good idea; this means you leave patches of natural wetland vegetation in between cultivated patches.
- Plant no more than one quarter of a wetland in total.
- A good idea is to have a number of beds, say three, and only plant one each year. This means that each bed rests for two years in between plantings. If you are going to dig drains make sure they are no more than 30cm deep and wide and cover only a small area so that the wetland does not dry out completely. All drains should be blocked in the dry season to keep the wetland alive.
What you should not do:
- Don’t plant trees in wetlands, especially exotic trees that consume a lot of water, because they will dry out the wetland. Always leave suitable buffer zones between timber plantations and wetlands.
- Never drain a wetland near its outlet.
- Don’t plant in the wettest parts of the wetland.
- Avoid sensitive wetland areas: wetlands with high erosion hazards, forested wetlands, peatlands, wetlands supporting endangered species such as Wattled cranes, wetland areas on the margins of estuaries and wetlands in catchments and landscapes where lots of damage has been done to other wetlands already.
- Never dig deep drains to dry out a wetland or you could destroy the structure and functioning of the wetland.
- Avoid using chemicals that will contaminate the surface or groundwater.
- Don’t clear big areas to plant. Try to leave as much original vegetation in place as you can to protect the soil and underlying water.
An agri-tourism possibility?
Wetlands offer delightful open spaces that people can visit to walk, birdwatch or just enjoy being in nature. Outdoor activities such as cycling, walking, boating, fishing, birding and watersports all contribute to improving our lifestyles and mental well-being, and help to stave off mental illnesses such as depression. Wetlands such as mangroves and rocky shores are popular for school outings. They are fascinating outdoor classrooms where learners can interact with the elements of the ecosystem and see first hand how they are integrated.
As habitats for wildlife such as waterbirds, hippo’s and angling fish, wetlands are lucrative tourist destinations. For example, the economy of the town Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga is built on birdwatching around the Wakkerstroom wetland and surrounding area. Lake St Lucia in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal is another example. Here the success of tourism justifies the 1996 government decision to adopt a tourism-based economic development strategy for the region, in preference to mining.
National policy and legislation provides clear direction and support for rehabilitation, but the very complex links between people and wetlands means that actions aimed at sustainably rehabilitating and conserving wetlands will depend on the dedication and commitment of all stakeholders, especially landowners and wetland users.
Associations & NGOs
- Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) African Crane Conservation Programme (EWT-ACCP) Tel: 011 372 3600 www.ewt.org.za
- Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) Tel: 021 448 2881 www.emg.org.za
- International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) Piet-Louis Grundling – 072 793 8248 www.imcg.net
- Mondi Wetlands Programme – contact WESSA `(see below)
- Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area www.nuwejaars.com
- South African Wetland Society Tel: 072 232 7709 http://sawetlands.org
- WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) Tel: 011 462 5663 http://wessa.org.za
- Worldwide Fund for Nature SA (WWF-SA) Tel: 011 339 1152 www.wwf.org.za
Government & parastatal
- Working for Wetlands is a joint initiative of the Departments of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF); Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (DWS); and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). Find information under “Projects and programmes” at www.environment.gov.za.
- The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR), a UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) designated biosphere reserve. See www.gouritz.com.
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority Tel: 035 590 1633/1602 www.isimangaliso.com The Isimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999. Isimangaliso consists of Kosi Bay, Coastal forest, Lake Sibiya, Sodwana Bay, uMkhuze, False Bay, Charters Creek, Lake St Lucia, Cape Vidal and Maphelane.
- Rand Water Foundation www.randwater.co.za (1) Mohlatleho Sekoaila – 011 682 0018 (2) Marc de Fontaine – 011 682 0264
- South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Freshwater Programme John Dini (Programme Director) Tel: 012 843 5200/21 www.sanbi.org
- South African National Parks (SANParks) Nandi Mgwadlamba, 078 702 9663, nandi.mgwadlamba [at] sanparks.org www.sanparks.org
- Water Wise Tel: 0860 10 10 60 www.waterwise.co.za Find wetland notes (including material for educators) under the “Green Industry” option.
Training & research
- African Conservation Trust https://projectafrica.com Tel: 031 765 3957 ACT runs iSimangaliso Environmental Education
- ARC-Plant Protection Research www.arc.agric.za Liamé van der Westhuizen VdWesthuizenL [at] arc.agric.za Training and research on invasive alien plants that threaten the wetland biodiversity
- ARC – Institute of Soil, Climate and Water (ISCW) www.arc.agric.za Althea Grundling Tel: 012 310 2500
- Freshwater Research Centre http://frcsa.org.za Tel: 021 783 0155
- South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) https://sasri.org.za Tel: 031 508 7400 SUSFARMS, the Sustainable Sugarcane Farm Management System, deals with wetlands. Contact SASRI for more information.
- Stellenbosch University (SU) www.sun.ac.za Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Prof Michael Samways Tel: 021 808 3728
- The Centre for Wetland Research and Training (WETREST) Tel: 012 330 3908
- University of the Free State (UFS) www.ufs.ac.za The UFS is actively involved in the Lesotho Wetlands Project as part of the University’s Water management in water-scarce areas Strategic Academic Cluster.
- UFS Centre for Environmental Management Tel: 051 401 3958 www.ufs.ac.za/cem
- UFS Department of Zoology and Entomology Tel: 051 401 2427
- University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) http://cwrr.ukzn.ac.za
- Centre for Water Resources Research Tel: 033 260 5678
- UNISA www.unisa.ac.za Applied Behavioural Ecology & Ecosystem Research (ABEERU) Dr Alan Barret – 011 471 3592/294
- University of the Witwatersrand www.wits.ac.za/apes Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences Tel: 011 717 6403 Kevin.Rogers [at] wits.ac.za
- Water Institute of South Africa www.wisa.org.za Tel: 086 111 9472 wisa [at] wisa.org.za
- Water Research Commission www.wrc.org.za Stanley Liphadzi Tel: 012 761 9300
- Eco-Pulse Environmental Consulting Services Tel: 033 343 3651 www.eco-pulse.co.za Offers a wide range of wetland-related skills
- GroundTruth Tel: 033 343 2229 www.groundtruth.co.za Wetland delineation, inventories, rehabilitation etc
- Land Resources International (Pty) Ltd Tel: 033 392 8360 www.lri.co.za Wetland assessments and rehabilitation
- Maree, Johannes Tel: 082 564 1211 Ecologist & wetland specialist
- Terragis Tel: 076 371 1151 www.terragis.co.za Geographic information systems services
- Wetlands Consulting Services (Pty) Ltd Tel: 012 349 2699 www.wetcs.co.za Offers a specialised service in wetland and river consulting
Websites and publications
- Visit websites listed earlier in this chapter e.g. the Wetland Portal of South Africa at http://sawetlands.org.
- Southern Africa’s Ramsar Sites, www.saramsar.com. This is “a project to promote all the Ramsar wetlands in Southern Africa as potential ecotourism destinations”.
- General information about wetlands and several resources can be obtained from SANBI’s Freshwater Programme, at 012 843 5200/21. For example, download Clasification System for Wetlands, part of the SANBI biodiversity series at www.sanbi.org. The document “aims to provide user-friendly guidance for application of the classification system to inland aquatic ecosystems of South Africa”. See also the 2012 National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) giving an overview of the country’s wetland system at http://bgis.sanbi.org.
- Wetlands is one of the topics covered by publications from provincial agencies like Cape Nature‘s A landowner’s guide to managing wetlands. Find contact details in the biodiversity chapter.
- Find the guidelines which cover the consideration of wetlands in the EIA process at www.eia.org.za, the EIA Toolkit website.
- Access maps and data on wetlands worldwide at www.cifor.org/global-wetlands/
- The ATLAS of Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas in South Africa: Maps to support sustainable development of water resources is a HUGE document with lots of maps of freshwater rivers and wetlands that need to be protected. It is available online at the CSIR website or can be ordered from the Water Research Commission.
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an inter-governmental treaty that provides a framework for national action and international co-operation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It was signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. South Africa is a member country and has recognised and registered 19 wetlands as being of international importance, with proposals to increase that list. For information and documents relating to Ramsar and for a list of Wetlands of International Importance, visit www.ramsar.org.
- Find the many studies and papers on wetlands on the International Water Management Institute website – www.iwmi.cgiar.org.
- Find the cartoon commissioned by the Public Understanding of Biotechnology (PUB) on wetlands at www.pub.ac.za/cartoons/.
- DALRRD has an Info Pak “Wetlands values and functions” under “Resource Centre” at www.daff.gov.za.
- Staff Reporter. 2019, February 2. “Saving our land: the importance of wetlands”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/agri-technology/farming-for-tomorrow/saving-land-importance-wetlands/
Information for this chapter was supplied by the Mondi Wetlands Programme (MWP), Working for Wetlands, Land Resources International, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and Wetland Consulting Services.
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