Thursday, 19 July 2018, 12:01
There is life beneath Knysna's favourite playground
The Knysna seahorse needs no introduction. Photos: Supplied

KNYSNA NEWS – SANParks is escalating the level of awareness initiatives concerning the Knysna estuary, a popular water playground for locals and visitors alike.

Of the 249 national estuaries forming part of a study conducted by Jane Turpie and Barry Clarke (2007), the Knysna estuary was ranked above the St Lucia World Heritage Site in terms of biodiversity significance. This was determined by the number of its fish species, birds and botanical data.

The estuary, in the Garden Route National Park (GRNP), is home to 43% of South Africa’s plant and animal life, and contributes some 21.6% of the total economic value of the 249 national estuaries.

“Estuaries are important nursery areas for juveniles, while adults also spend time in the estuaries feeding. Examples include spotted grunter, dusky kob, white steenbras, Cape stumpnose and leervis),” says SANParks marine ecologist Kyle Smith.

They are under a range of pressures including changes to water inflow, pollution (plastics, fertiliser, organic) which can impact the health of the estuary, habitat quality and its suitability for fish and bait species.

The Knysna estuary is also South Africa’s most important seagrass site with an estimated 355ha to 420ha of Cape dwarf eelgrass (Maree, 2000; Bandeira and Gell, 2003; CES, 2009). Both the Cape dwarf eelgrass (Short et al., 2007, 2011) and the fauna that it supports in Knysna are of very high conservation importance (Hodgson and Allanson, 2000; Russell et al., 2009), contributing to the estuary receiving the highest ranking in terms of its ecological importance.

Dolphins can be seen frolicking in the Knysna estuary from time to time.

Some challenges in managing the system, according to GRNP manager Paddy Gordon, include:

• More work to ensure pollution stays away from the estuaries and the ocean. While the work of the Knysna Pollution Action carries on every week assessing all sources of pollution and any incidents that may negatively impact the bacteriological quality of the water, more must still be done.

• More educational initiatives and a shared environmental education plan and resources.

• More research projects are required to understand all aspects of the Knysna estuary which is the world’s one and only estuarine Hope Spot (conservation, tourism, skills, socioeconomic), declared by Dr Sylvia Earle in 2015.

SANParks is requesting users of the estuary to exercise caution when using the estuary and note plant life and animals in the estuary.

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