Does South Africa have a microplastic problem? Our research says yes.

Does South Africa have a microplastic problem? Our research says yes.

Author Henk Bouwman Research Professor Ecotoxicology , North-West University Disclosure statement Henk Bouwman receives funding from the Water Research Commission. Partners The Conversation is funded by the National Research Foundation, eight universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa. It is hosted by the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape, the African Population and Health Research Centre and the Nigerian Academy of Science. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner. more Republish this articleRepublish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. Surface water from the Vaal River is highly polluted with fragments of microplastics. Flickr/Paul Saad  Email  Twitter15  Facebook100  LinkedIn  Print The dangers of plastics, and more specifically microplastics, is increasingly grabbing the world’s attention. A growing body of research shows that plastics and microplastics in the marine environment are having a devastating effect on life in the sea. The impact has been tracked particularly closely in laboratory setups where conditions can be managed and effects monitored. At any size, plastics pose a threat to living organisms. In the sea they can block whales’ digestive tracts, entangle sea turtles and affect the photosynthesis of algae. They’re also a problem in rivers and fresh water lakes. Microplastics are generally understood to be pieces, particles, or fibres less than 5 mm long. They have three major sources. The first is when large bits of plastic break down into tiny pieces not clear to the eye. The second is when fibres are shed from fabrics during use and washing. And the third is microbeads. These are also tiny and are manufactured to be used in products ranging from tooth paste to facial scrubs, and sandblasting. The use of plastics has become ubiquitous over the past 50 years. Most consist of stable polymers that have lots of useful properties. They are light in weight, strong, pliable and can be made into many different forms. And by combining plastics with a range of additives, products can be dramatically changed. This extends from colour to hardness and pliability. This means that they can be used in a host of innovative ways including affordable food protection and packaging, piping, ropes and netting, construction materials and windows. But, in most cases, products made out of plastic have a long durability and often outlasting their utility. They eventually become waste and enter the environment. A great deal of research has been done on the effect of microplastics on marine life as well as fresh water in developed countries. But the knowledge gaps in developing countries such as South Africa are huge. At the request of South Africa’s Water Research Commission – South Africa’s...

Read More

ALIEN INVASIVE PINES FUELLED KNYSNA FIRES

ALIEN INVASIVE PINES FUELLED KNYSNA FIRES

KnysnaPlett Herald Thursday, 13 September 2018, 13:02 Orderly plantations of pine trees in the background, and invasion by escaped pines on the Garcia Pass in the Southern Cape. These invasions can substantially increase fuel loads, leading to more intense and damaging wildfires. Photo: Brian van Wilgen KNYSNA NEWS – The replacement of natural fynbos vegetation with pine plantations in the Southern Cape, and the subsequent invasion of surrounding land by pine trees significantly increased the severity of the 2017 Knysna wildfires. This is one of the findings of a study published in the journal Fire Ecology by a research team from the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) at Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela University, Sanparks, and the CSIR. The aim of the study was to assess the climatic, weather and fuel factors that contributed to one of the region’s worst fires ever recorded. Satellite imagery used Over four days in June 2017, the Knysna fires burnt 15 000 hectares, claiming the lives of seven people and destroying more than 5 000 hectares of commercial pine plantations and over 800 buildings. The researchers used satellite imagery to compare the landscape before and after the fire, including the type of vegetation covering the different areas. This information enabled them to estimate the amount of biomass consumed by the 2017 fire. One of the main findings is that the severity of the fire was significantly higher in plantations of invasive alien trees and in fynbos invaded by alien trees than in “uninvaded” fynbos. And while the weather conditions were extreme, they were not unprecedented, as similar conditions occurred in the past at a rate of about one day every three years. The severity of the 18 to 24 months of drought that preceded the fires, on the other hand, was higher than ever recorded in the historical weather record, and this contributed significantly to the impact of the fire. Increased fuel loads Professor Brian van Wilgen, a fire ecologist with the CIB and one of the co-authors, says large tracts of natural vegetation in the Southern Cape have been systematically replaced with plantations of Pinus and Eucalyptus species, increasing above-ground biomass from about four to 20 tonnes per hectare: “Given that more than two-thirds of the area that burned was in one of these altered conditions, our findings demonstrate clearly that fuel loads have substantially increased compared to earlier situations when the landscape would have been dominated by regularly burned ‘uninvaded’ natural vegetation.” A burned-out plantation near Harkerville, shortly after the 2017 wildfire. Photo: Johan Baard It is estimated that pine trees have invaded more than 90% of the Garden Route National Park’s fynbos vegetation at various densities. Additional invasions...

Read More

SPRING SHOWS POSITIVE SIGNS OF RECOVERY IN KNYSNA

SPRING SHOWS POSITIVE SIGNS OF RECOVERY IN KNYSNA

Thursday, 13 September 2018, 07:25 Spectacular regrowth of Fynbos was found on the slopes above Brenton-on- Lake and elsewhere in the Knysna burn scar. KNYSNA NEWS – “A recent survey throughout the Knysna burn scar showed that there is very positive indigenous plant regrowth to be found throughout the landscape. With favourable rains in the Knysna area, coupled with an early spring and longer daylight hours, Fynbos is making a strong comeback. Known to be dependent on cycles of wildfire for regeneration, the Fynbos in the area no doubt benefitted from the 2017 Knysna fire disaster,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI). Conservationists across the country shared concern on the damage caused by the intense wildfires that ravaged the Knysna countryside in June 2017. Chased by extremely strong winds and fuelled by dense stands of invasive alien biomass littering the countryside, the wildfire that swept through areas such as Buffels Bay, Brenton and Rheenendal was intensely hot, reaching several thousand degrees centigrade. In most places, all that remained in terms of vegetation, was barren sand. There were serious concerns expressed that, because of the intense heat which was generated, the Fynbos seed bank, hidden in the topsoil, might have been completely destroyed, along with vital nutrients and insect life. According to Meiring, a further concern was that denuded landscapes would be completely covered by a wave of invasive alien plants, which are known to outcompete indigenous plants, such as Low-land Fynbos. A recent survey throughout the burn scar, however, showed that there is very positive indigenous regrowth to found throughout the landscape. A recent survey throughout the burn scar, however, showed that there is very positive indigenous regrowth to found throughout the landscape. With favourable rains in the Knysna area, coupled with an early spring and longer daylight hours, Fynbos is making a strong comeback. Suppressing invasive alien growth yields positive results around Knysna “The herbicide assistance programme rolled out on selected properties by the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association (SCFPA), and sponsored through Nedbank and WWF SA, provided assistance to the respective landowners to very effectively stemmed the growth of invasive alien plants, allowing indigenous plants to flourish,” says Meiring. In addition, the fire gave landowners a clean slate in terms of vegetation types on their land, and an opportunity to gain the upper-hand in dealing with invasive alien plants such as wattle, blackwood and Rooikrans. With favourable rains in the Knysna area, coupled with an early spring and longer daylight hours, Fynbos is making a strong comeback. The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) is a public platform and think tank for landowners and land managers with an interest in invasive alien plant management,...

Read More

Wildfire risk to your home and your community

Wildfire risk to your home and your community

We would like to invite you to an information sharing session 18:00 on Friday, 7 Sept 2018 and a FREE training session 9h30-15h30, 8 Sept 2018 at the Brenton Hall LANDWORKS™has been appointed to run a public awareness campaign in the greater Knysna area, due to the devastating wildfires of 2017. Much of the landscape remains unburnt and poses a risk of further wildfires. The purpose of the meeting is to help you understand the risk that you and your neighbours face from wildfire and to provide life-saving information that you and your community will find useful to protect yourself, your family and your home from wildfire. The FREE training session on the Saturday will be a step by step risk assessment and reduction course that you can use for your property and community in order to practically analyse and reduce your risk. Please share this open invitation with your neighbours, colleagues, friends, and members of your community. Everyone is welcome to attend. Please contact me on Whatsapp, SMS or email (details below) so that I can estimate the number of people attending as we would like to serve everyone who attends with refreshments. Remember: “Fire is everyone’s fight.” Issued by: Tessa Oliver, Project Manager for Risk Reduction – LANDWORKS™ Tel: 021 712 5223 | Whatsapp: 087 3110452 | tessa.oliver@landworksnpc.com www.facebook.com/LANDWORKSNPC/ Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new...

Read More

Woody plants on the march: trees and shrubs are encroaching across Africa.

Woody plants on the march: trees and shrubs are encroaching across Africa.

Zander Venter PhD candidate in agroecology, University of Cape Town Disclosure statement Zander Venter receives funding from GreenMatter, the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, Red Meat Producers Organization and Cape Wools SA. Partners University of Cape Town provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA. The Conversation is funded by the National Research Foundation, eight universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa. It is hosted by the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape, the African Population and Health Research Centre and the Nigerian Academy of Science. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner. more Republish this articleRepublish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licenceAugust 13, 2018 2.45pm SAST Forests are being cleared by humans at an alarming rate. Since 2000, roughly 20% of Africa’s forests have been wiped out. This deforestation has serious consequences, among them a loss of biodiversity and the potential to remove carbon dioxide (CO?), a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. But trees and shrubs, collectively known as woody plants, appear to be fighting back on another front. Many of these species are gradually encroaching into grasslands and savannas across Africa, particularly in places like Cameroon and the Central African Republic. Taken at face value, this may seem to be good news. Woody plants mean more fuel wood for rural communities and increased food for browsing livestock like goats. It may offset the loss in carbon sequestration caused by deforestation. But more woody plants also means less habitat for grass and other herbs that make grasslands and savannas such productive systems. And that’s a direct threat to the productivity of cattle and certain wild herbivores which rely on grass for sustenance. This is significant because in 2016, Africa produced 6.3 million tonnes of beef – more than double the meat production from sheep and goats combined. Woody plants can also take up precious water resources. Until recently, scientists relied on historical photographs from land and aeroplanes to investigate changes in vegetation cover over decades and even centuries. This only gives information at a few locations, but these valuable studies have consistently shown that woody plants are expanding their range over parts of Africa. We set out to expand on this research by exploring change in woody plant cover outside of forests for the entire sub-Saharan Africa region using satellite imagery going back to 1986. We found that woody plants’ cover has increased in large swathes of the continent in the past three decades. Our findings also suggest why this may have happened: because wildfires have decreased and there are more grazing animals...

Read More

BEETLE RAVAGES INDIGENOUS TREES

BEETLE RAVAGES INDIGENOUS TREES

A tiny beetle and its deadly fungus is threatening South Africa’s trees. I posted the following article on  March 30, 2018, log on to: http://www.gardeningatleisure.co.za/a-tiny-beetle-and-its-deadly-fungus-is-threatening-south-africas-trees/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The following article appeared in today’s edition of the KnysnaPlett Herald: Journalist Stefan Goosen | Thursday, 30 August 2018, 10:00 An example of an infected tree. Photo: supplied Gallery KNYSNA NEWS – It moves into your yard like an illegal squatter and builds its home. Then it forms an incestuous pit of reproduction and turns your backyard into a breeding colony… Soon your garden is littered with dead branches and dying trees. It is a variant of the ambrosia beetle and it is currently taking Knysna’s trees by storm – a storm that will make you want to batten down the hatches… The beetle, more commonly known as the polyphagous shothole borer originating from Asia, had initially spread to California and Israel before it was noted in South Africa in the early 2010s. According to local horticulturist Nanna Joubert, the variant found in Knysna is closely related to the euwallacea fornicatus* species complex. Residents have been worried, some frustrated, by what they see as the municipality’s inaction regarding these devourers of trees. When the Knysna Municipality was recently confronted with information that a number of residents say the municipality is not doing enough – such as not burning all the infected trees and only pruning some – and are not felling all the infected trees completely as stated, the municipality said this was because the disease had not spread to all trees. Furthermore it said that infected wood has been taken to a dump site, and for future purposes the plan is to burn the debris. “The project is ongoing subject to availability of budget.” First noticed in 2013 These beetles were noticed in Knysna back in 2013 by Clive Nuns, manager of Parks and Recreation at Knysna Municipality at the time. By 2014, about 35 trees, both large and small, were earmarked to be felled in the whole CBD as well as in a few other areas. This year the infestation has become a lot worse. According to Dr Trudy Paap of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (Fabi) in Pretoria, who visited Knysna in June and sampled trees in Pledge Nature Reserve and the CBD where these beetles were noticed, it would be tricky to give a simple answer to what Knysna’s current situation is. “At the moment we can’t really predict how this beetle infestation will play out as we do not want to cause panic and also because we are not sure if every infected tree will be killed,” she said this week. George also heavily affected The situation in George, however, appears...

Read More