South Africa is a water scarce country, and the water in many streams is polluted. Both droughts and floods are common. In this regard, wetlands play a vital role by removing toxic substances and sediment from the water, improving downstream water quality and the overall health of communities. Wetlands are able to reduce the severity of droughts and floods by regulating stream flow, and by providing habitats for many different plants and animals.
One of the most prominent landscape features in the Greater Knysna area is the Knysna Estuary. It is of considerable conservation importance, ranking third of South Africa’s estuaries in terms of botanical importance, eighth in terms of fish conservation, nineteenth in terms of bird conservation, and first in terms of overall conservation importance, which includes criteria such as size, diversity of habitat, zonal rarity and biodiversity.
The total surface area of the intertidal wetlands in the Knysna Estuary has been estimated at 1000 hectares – second only in size to Langebaan Lagoon. These intertidal wetlands are an important component of the estuarine ecosystem as they provide a habitat for numerous estuarine organisms and birds, fish, including the seahorse, as well as diverse invertebrates.
Knysna has already lost half of its wetlands through land reclamation resulting from the growth of the town, and from commercial and recreational developments. What remains is of increasing importance to the ecology of the lagoon as well as to the economic well-being of the town. The Knysna Basin Project’s Scientific Report on the Knysna Estuary listed a number of anthropogenic impacts that lead to degradation and damage to our wetlands, including the formation of pathways by fishermen and recreational users, cycle tracks, bait collection, boat moorings, and the construction of seawalls.
SANPark’s recent Management Plan for the Garden Route National Park identifies the salt marshes on the northern edge of Leisure Isle as having the highest sensitivity values. This includes the area adjacent the Towpath and seawall, as well as the beautiful Kingfisher Creek. Steenbok Reserve is fortunate to have these very special estuarine assets, and we need to ensure that they are nurtured and protected for the benefit of future generations.
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Eden District Municipality and the estuary water quality results for February 2020
RENEW ABLE KNYSNA – Locals unite in the fight against waste
Garden Route National Park 10 year Management Plan