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

Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Our Environment | 0 comments

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 premier water knowledge hub – we recently undertook a scoping study of microplastics in freshwaters in the country’s economic powerhouse Gauteng and an area to the south of the region. We found that surface water from the Vaal River – the largest tributary of the South Africa’s longest river, the Orange River – was highly polluted with fragments. This is most likely due to water draining into the river from industries in the area. We also found that fibres were more abundant in rural rivers, possibly due to untreated laundry water entering these rivers. The problem Because plastics are relatively new in...

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Festival of Flowers ~ 22 September to 30 September.

Posted by on September 16, 2018 in Events | 0 comments

Festival of Flowers ~ 22 September to 30 September.

For info and Bookings: helga@glassroots.co.za 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...

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Club Meeting: 5th October – Rebuilding a new home and garden after the fire.

Posted by on September 16, 2018 in Events | 0 comments

Club Meeting: 5th October – Rebuilding a new home and garden after the fire.

Five years ago I posted the article  on Stella Sohn’s lovely garden – not in our wildest dreams could we envisage  the Great Fire of 2017,  the destruction of the countryside, nor the decimated blackened suburbs, or the  many lives in turmoil. Stella and Richard had to cut their overseas holiday short to return to an  apocalyptic scene greeting them up the hill in Estuary Heights – everything was destroyed;  their once eclectic guesthouse was a blackened ruin, all the surrounding trees burned to cinders, and the once beautiful garden was no more. But more tragically,  lives were lost on their property when it was encircled by fire. Stella is not a person to dwell on the past, instead she looks to the future –  she started rebuilding here garden  soon after the first signs of life appeared.  The guesthouse is still in the building phase, but the pool cottage has been renovated and a beautiful garden envelopes the charming pool. Stella is going to talk about her new garden, and her vision for the rest of the property. Please bring a mug for tea, sunhat and folding chair.  Visitors are welcome : R20.00 per person. DATE: 5TH OCTOBER, 2018 TIME: 10.00 AM SPEAKER: STELLA SOHN VENUE: NARNIA GUESTHOUSE, ESTUARY HEIGHTS.  Click on the green tab (under Upcoming Events) top right hand corner of this page, follow the prompts and  it will direct you to Narnia Guesthouse. (Our signs will also be in place to guide you)   Remembering Stella’s once beautiful garden, posted on our website 14th October 2013  ……. Stella Sohn’s Garden   The sprawling garden complements the rustic guesthouse magnificently:  quirky African- inspired artwork is displayed discreetly amongst the vegetation, and weathered benches and seating entice visitors to sit and drink in the tranquil atmosphere and birdsong. The garden at the pool area is rustic and natural.  Plants native to the area are allowed to pop up, whilst a few Pincushions were planted amongst the grasses and restios to provide colour in spring. A  collection of Bonsai is displayed in a rustic arbour which nestles in colourful flowing beds, interlinking with one another. Nearby, in an area protected from the wind, is an informal rose bed. With the different ‘rooms’ in the garden this new rose area is not at odds with the informality of the rest of the garden. A fire pit with log seating and hints of Africa sits comfortably in the front section of the garden, overlooking the Outeniqua Mountains. One can only imagine sitting there on a windless, starry night listening to the calls of a Nightjar. The fire of 7th June 2017…… There was once a rose garden …. Remains of the pool garden Rebirth and renewal ….. Where the bonsai boma was New vistas from the cottage The new pool garden Quirky pot stands – remains of a tractor       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...

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ALIEN INVASIVE PINES FUELLED KNYSNA FIRES

Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Our Environment | 0 comments

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 by Australian Acacia and Eucalyptus species cover a further 29% and 14% respectively. “By increasing the amount of fuel available to burn, the fires become more intense and more difficult to control,” he explains. Van Wilgen warns, however, that events of this nature can become more frequent as the climate of the Southern Cape becomes more hot and dry, and as the extent of invasions increases. “The conditions that exacerbated the severity of the 2017 Knysna fires will occur again. People need to stay vigilant and implement fire-wise practices and, more importantly, steer away from placing developments in high-risk areas...

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