Knysna Sand fynbos
View looking across the WWF-SA owned property towards the Brenton on Sea residential area. Photo Credit: Supplied

Celebrating the protection of the last remaining of the critically endangered Knysna Sand Fynbos on the Western Heads of Knysna.

 

Knysna, South Africa (05 July 2024) – South African National Parks (SANParks) is facilitating the protection of the last remaining remnant of the critically endangered Knysna Sand Fynbos (KSF) in collaboration with landowners, the Western Heads-Goukamma Conservancy (WHGC), Table Mountain Fund (TMF), WWF-SA, CapeNature, the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, and the Knysna Municipality.

The WHGC was registered with CapeNature in October 2004 and extends from the western bank of the Knysna Estuary to the eastern bank of the Goukamma Estuary, and from the beach (high water mark) inland to the N2 national highway.

Knysna Sand Fynbos once occupied some 15,000 hectares of land along the Garden Route coast, extending from Wilderness north of the lakes system to include patches around the Knysna Estuary and the Robberg Peninsula near Plettenberg Bay. However today much of this vegetation type has been negatively transformed due to agriculture, commercial timber plantations, and development. As a result, only 1 478 hectares (9.6%) remains today, the majority of which occurs in the WHGC.

The WHGC, due to its relative rural state, is also important for maintaining the hydrological functioning and health of the Knysna Estuary which is facing increasing pollution impacts from its developed northern suburbs. The estuary is important for maintaining nature-based tourism and the characteristic landscape that the town and people of Knysna economically depend on.

Despite this high conservation and tourism value, the WHGC is under threat from inappropriate development, habitat fragmentation, loss of landscape functionality, biodiversity loss, uncontrolled fires, and alien plant species invasion, exacerbated by impact of climate change. The KSF was severely impacted by the Knysna fires of 2017 and is at risk and sensitive to any further disturbances. Conservation measures, including protection and restoration interventions, are critical to ensuring the future of this important area and enhancing climate change adaptation and resilience for the local and broader area.

Recognising these threats and the great need for conservation of the area, catalytic project funding was secured by the WHGC from the Table Mountain Fund. The objective was to create awareness and encourage landowners to commit their properties to biodiversity stewardship and to eradicate invasive alien plants, which destroy the natural flora of the KSF and which pose a high fire risk to the area.

Biodiversity stewardship involves securing land in biodiversity priority areas by entering into agreements with private landowners, community structures such as Communal Property Associations (CPAs) and occupiers of state-owned communal land. The objective of biodiversity stewardship is to conserve and manage biodiversity priority areas through voluntary agreements with landowners and communities. This may involve formal protection, management and restoration of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Biodiversity stewardship is led by conservation authorities in South Africa and supported by Conservation NGOs. It recognises landowners as the custodians of biodiversity on their land.

Stakeholders recently gathered in Brenton on Sea, on one of the newly acquired properties to celebrate the conservation initiative and the exciting historic milestone, where a biodiversity treasure has been secured for perpetuity.


Sources: SANParks
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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