02 March, 2009

Meeting 4 March 09

The first meeting for 2009 will be held on the Seminar Room of the Kirstenbosch Research Centre on 4 March from 13.30 to 16.30. Meetings are open to all with an interest in wetlands.


13:30 – 13:50 : Welcome and Chair’s Report
Report back from Steering Committee meeting.
Matters arising from previous minutes of Forum meeting of 19 Nov 08

13:50 – 14.15 : Groundwater basics and relationship to Wetlands
by Mike Smart, DWAFDeputy Director: Groundwater Management DWAF

14:15 – 14.40 : Groundwater, Wetlands and the Table Mountain Group
by Christine Colvine, CSIR

14.40-14.50 : Overview of Wetland Prioritization process for CoCT
by Kate Snaddon of FCG

14.50-15.00 : Start of feedback on World Wetlands Day 09 from various groups.

15.00 - 15.30 : TEA

15.30 – 15:45 : World Wetlands Day 09
Report back: GEESE; WESSA; Friends of Liesbeek; Working for Wetlands, Alice Ashwell, TMNP; Zandvlei Trust; 2 Oceans

15:45-16:15 : AGM

16:15– 16:30 : Membership Input & General Forum Business; Up-coming events; Announcements and Publications; Nancy Job – Potential publication on Wetland Plants

16:30 : Closure

04 February, 2009

WESSA Water Hyacinth Clear Out

In keeping with the Ramsar theme of “Upstream, Downstream, wetlands connect us all”, WESSA is arranging a water hyacinth clearing along a section of the Keyers River.

WHEN: Friday 6 Feb 09
WHERE: Frogmore Estate, end of Easson Road (which runs off Main). Follow the dirt track to the river.
TIME: 15H00 TO 16H00
RSVP: Roshan. 021 7011397 or roshan@wessa.co.za so that we can provide enough juice and biscuits.

Advisable: hat, sunblock, shorts, water sandals. Optional: bring a rake if you don’t want to go into the river, bring friends too.

30 January, 2009

World Wetlands Day 2009

World Wetlands Day is on the 2nd of Feb. The Ramsar theme for this year is "Upstream, Downstream, Wetlands connect us all". See the Ramsar site www.ramsar.org for useful material. The listing below shows some of the many awareness drives and events happening in the Cape name of Wetlands Day on the 2nd and during the course of Feb. Send in info about any wetlands related event you'd like to advertise.

1 Feb. Glencairn. Building of stepping stone river crossing. Contact Cilla Bromley on
021 7826400
2 Feb. Agulhas. Workers involvement with the Working for Wetlands Project. Contact Winston Coe of Working for Wetlands on 021 7998848 0846209908
2 Feb. Duiwenhoks. Hoerskool Langebaan visit to the WfWetlands gabion structure. Contact Winston Coe.
2 Feb. Observatory. Wetland walk and visit to bird hides. Contact Dave Wheeler 021 671 4553
2 Feb. Port Nolloth. Wetland information session and start of a 3-week wetland cleaning project
Nicolaas Sigamu on 078 556 2764
2 Feb. Verlorenvlei. Eendekuil and Elandsbaai schools interactive workshops
Winston Coe.
2 - 6 Feb. Zandvlei. Schools wetlands information sessions and field trips. City of Cape Town & EduTrain. Contact Paul Arends on 021 4872567
3 Feb. Peninsula. WfWetlands Workers wetland training session. Contact Winston Coe
4 Feb. Masiphumelele. Ukhanyo Junior School wetland walk and talk. Contact Leighan Mossop at 0217892457.
5 Feb. Peninsula. Schools wetland training session. Contact Winston Coe
6 Feb. Peninsula. Schools wetland training session. Contact Winston Coe
6 Feb. Keysers River Water Hyacinth Clean Up. Contact Patrick or Philippa on 021 7011397
7 Feb. Silvermine wetlands. Mini SASS test. Contact Evanne Rothwell.
11 Feb. Silvermine. GIS and environmental awareness training for school learners. Contact Alice Ashwell on 021 7882431

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.