The Southern Gouritz Bio-Diversity Corridor
Private Conservation in Practice
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THE Southern Corridor of the Gouritz Initiative is one the most threatened and
difficult to conserve areas within the Gouritz Initiative. The coastal lowlands
have always been prime agricultural land and as such much transformation has
taken place in the landscape. Habitat fragmentation, poor water quality,
low annual average rainfall, alien vegetation infestation and looming
developments are all placing the unique environmental characteristics of the
area at risk. The coastal portion of the corridor is arguably the most
threatened habitat type within the Gouritz corridor. The coastal vegetation is
under threat from alien invasive plants, and indiscriminate developments on the
last remaining patches of pristine coastal vegetation.
Gourits river estuary
The Gourits river estuary which is a permanently open estuary is at the
receiving end of all the environmental degradation that takes place in the
catchment of more than 43 000 km². Over abstraction of water from the river,
siltation of the river from poor agricultural practices and infestation by alien
plants in the catchment areas are some of the threats to the estuary. Estuaries
are the breeding grounds for many marine fish species, the fish are dependant on
these breeding nurseries to replenish already dwindling fish stocks. The
survival of the commercial fishing industry is inextricably linked to these
severely threatened estuarine environments.
The degradation of the physical habitat of the estuary
and associated marine environment is threatening its
Incorrect placement of coastal developments, the
indiscriminate building of houses, the driving of
vehicles into the salt marshes, destruction of salt
marsh from trampling by people accessing the estuary
to fish, the landing of boats on the banks of the salt
marshes damages the substrate and destroys the
vegetation on the banks.
The grazing of livestock right up to the banks of the
estuary is causing severe bank collapse, the wakes of
speeding boats on the estuary leave small fish stranded
on the estuarine banks and increase bank erosion, the
placement of fences and other obstructions into the
estuary impacts on flow dynamics and creates
sediment traps in the wrong places.
These are but a few of the threats. Almost
It is widely accepted that the river corridor itself is not
sufficient to ensure that plants and animals can
migrate in response to climatic changes into the
future. Plants and animals have many different criteria
which must be met before they can/will migrate.
Some birds require cover and will not cross open
spaces such as ploughed fields, certain small mammals
have the same problems. Some animals rely on regular
water sources before they can move. Aquatic animals
require continuous flowing water before they can
Plants on the other hand require physical space and
time to migrate. This requires continuous vegetation
corridors down/up which plants can move in response
to environmental changes. Without this corridor many
plant species will simply cease to exist!!
Extinction may be a natural process, but not at the rate
at which humans have caused it to accelerate!
The current social environment throughout our country is faced with many
challenges. High unemployment, escalating crime and slow delivery of government
relief is placing even more pressure on the natural resources of the country as
a whole. The environment bares the brunt of all of this! The unsustainable
utilisation of the natural resources of the country is escalating.
Nature has the capacity to provide, but she also requires time to rest and
recuperate and ultimately regenerate in order to provide for another day.
The Gouritz Initiative has been developed through the understanding of the
critical importance of this part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom and its
contribution to the bio-diversity of the country and world at large. Aimed at
private landowners, and the rest of civil society, it aims to promote the
responsible and sustainable use of the natural environment. The establishment of
a natural corridor, focused on the Gourits River, from the Karoo to the sea is
an ambitious goal, but an essential one.
The Gouritz Initiative has fostered good working relationships amongst the
various local Departments and local government. This will ensure a focused
allocation of resources and co-operation between departments, ultimately
increasing productivity and effectivity.
Turning planning and strategising into implementation will become a reality
through cooperation and teamwork amongst alf the role-players, i.e. society at
The future is full of opportunities and hope. The buy-in of private landowners
is essential to ensure that we conserve our natural heritage for future
generations. The path to success is through implementing clear, achievable
objectives. The immediate threats are alien invasive plants, indiscriminate
destruction of the remaining natural habitats, over abstraction of water and
Starting own conservation projects
Several initiatives in the area have gone a long way to conserving and
protecting their environments. The Fransmanshoek conservancy, together with
Kanon Private Nature Reserve, Kanon Valley Estates and other private landowners
along the coastline east of the Gourits river estuary have started a privately
funded initiative to employ persons from previously disadvantaged communities to
work within the area. The focus being marine compliance and law enforcement,
alien plant control, visitor control and biological monitoring. This, together
with their own conservation projects, has greatly increased the conservation
status of the area.
Kanon Private Nature Reserve, together with Marine and Coastal Management and
the WCNCB has focused on introducing local schools to marine conservation.
Several beach cleanups have been organized and through generous donations from
Kanon, the kids were able to enjoy an educational day along the coast.
Dedicated Gourits river conservation Trust
West of the river, the Gourits river Conservation Trust, which is run by a group
of dedicated individuals from
Gouritsmond is at the forefront of ensuring the conservation and protection of
the Gourits river Estuary. They were instrumental in having regulations
promulgated for the use of the Estuary by members of the public.
Supported, by both the Langeberg and Mossel bay Municipalities, the Trust has
successfully implemented important conservation projects in the area. The
clearing of alien vegetation from within the municipal commonage has been
ongoing and has provided employment to residents of Bietouville. The control and
maintenance of the slipway and parking area as well as the control of
recreational fishing on the estuary has been an ongoing project. The Trust has
also been instrumental in initiating the development of an Environmental
Management Plan for Gouritsmond and the estuary, which is in the process of
Unique fresh water springs
Further west, private landowners are striving for conservation goals. The farm
Borrelfontein has unique coastal vegetation associated with the fresh water
springs that emanate there. At present the farm is a potential site for being
included into the WCNCB Stewardship programme.
Reins Private Nature Reserve, continues to focus on the sustainable use of its
resources. This unique nature reserve is a fine example of the responsible
management of private land for the benefit of the environment. Its eco-tourism
facilities are amongst some of the best along this coastline and the visitor is
treated to the magnificence of what this area has to offer.
There are many more private initiatives in the area, and many concerned
individuals who are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect and
conserve the last remaining vestiges of natural habitats in this unique area. To
all these individuals we say thank you and to everyone else we ask that you
support and get involved with the projects in your area.
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Source: Arne Purves
Article Date: 23 December 2004