Paardevlei can have its original name back now

29 October 2013

Flaminke Valey (now known as Paardevlei) circa 1700s

Flaminke Valey (centre left. now known as Paardevlei) circa 1700s

Paardevlei before rehabilitation (Photo: Bill Harding)

Paardevlei before rehabilitation (Photo: Bill Harding)

Paardevlei, a shallow and much-modified vlei south of Somerset West, used to be known as Flamingo Vlei.  OK, this was back in the 1700s – the map above shows it as Flaminke Valey [center left], with the then much larger Zeekoe Valey (at Sitari, north of Maccassar) just to the north. Read more »

EU to adopt policy on protecting forests from road impacts

28 October 2013


Press release – October 24, 2013

Strasbourg -The European Parliament has backed two proposals by MEP Kriton Arsenis to take action against the construction of new roads in intact forests. Read more »

A ‘reactive’ mandate for wetland ‘protection’ ? Really ?

14 July 2013

This wetland will need to be damaged before it can be saved (Photo: Bill Harding)

This wetland will need to be damaged before it can be saved (Photo: Bill Harding, agents details deleted)

Oddly, the mandate of the South African Department of the Environment – insofar as wetland protection is concerned, is reactive.  This means that a wetland has to be in the process of being damaged (= commencement of an illegal activity) before action can be taken!  Strange, senseless, but true!

I recently brought the case of a plot that is up for sale – and which is 100% wetland, part of a much larger system already intersected by a road and associated urban development – to the attention of the responsible authority, with the response that nothing can be done.  Perhaps there is an existing Record of Decision that has allowed the wetland to be lost, but I doubt it.  The wetland in question is at the head of a small streamline that feeds into an ecologically-important fish sanctuary system.  Although passing through a country village, the streamline and the wetland nodes along it support a variety of wildlife. Read more »

The dangers of dimwits, developers, politicians and ‘habitat banking’

25 April 2013

Creating wetlands is not an easy task (Photo: Bill Harding)

Creating wetlands is not an easy task (Photo: Bill Harding)

One of the greatest potential threats to biodiversity, especially where wetlands are concerned, is the notion that effective ‘offsets’ can be created somewhere else, such that a developer can trash a piece of the environment that was created over millenia.  This notion extends to the concept of habitat banking – which has some merit in a few cases, for example where a small fragment of already-impacted environment can be sacrificed where significantly-larger areas of the same type exist in nearby proximity (not in the next province though). Read more »

Pollution-eating islands: the latest farming tool

23 February 2013

Newly-planted BioHaven floating island

Newly-planted BioHaven floating island

Not all floating islands are “floating islands”.  Many are just floating rafts that support some plants, providing only just a small fraction of the pollution-guzzling capabilities of truly-biomimicking approaches such as BioHavens, created by Floating Islands International in Montana, USA.  This report details yet another example of where BioHavens are being put to effective use. Read more »

Trading wetlands no longer a deal with the devil

7 February 2013

Debra Levey Larson. Author of this post.

If Faust had been in the business of trading wetlands rather than selling his soul, the devil might be portrayed by the current guidelines for wetland restoration. Research from the University of Illinois recommends a new framework that could make Faustian bargains over wetland restoration sites result in more environmentally positive outcomes.

University of Ilinois ecologist Jeffrey Matthews explained that, under the current policies, if a wetland is scheduled for development and a negative impact is unavoidable, the next option is to offset, or compensate, for the destruction through restoration of a wetland or creation of a new wetland somewhere else. Although the policies previously specified that it be a nearby wetland, regulatory agencies have begun favoring mitigation banking that does not ensure that a wetland with equivalent characteristics to the one being destroyed will be preserved.

“Currently destruction of wetlands can be offset by restoration of wetlands quite a distance away from the wetland that was destroyed,” said Matthews. “It’s usually within the same large watershed, but if the upper reaches of the watershed up along the small headwater streams are being destroyed and replaced by larger mitigation banks that are perhaps on larger rivers downstream, the species that are characteristic of those small headwater streams may not be the type of species that tend to occur in those larger, main-stem high-order streams.” Like Faust’s pact, it may not represent an equivalent trade. “A lot of smaller, unique wetlands in a watershed might be traded for one large homogeneous wetland,” he said. Read more »

Upgrade of wastewater treatment plant shows just what can be achieved!

28 September 2012

Arlington County’s Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) in South Arlington, Va., is located on 35 acres of land squeezed into a commercial/residential neighborhood less than a mile west of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The facility treats flows from nearly all of Arlington. In addition, nearly 20 percent of the plant’s flow comes from neighboring localities such as Alexandria, Fairfax County, and Falls Church. Effluent from the plant is discharged into Four Mile Run to the south, which feeds into the Potomac River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. Read more »

Long-lost Western Cape wetland to be recreated

22 September 2012

View across the Klein Zeekoevlei, the area beyond the dam (Photo: Bill Harding)

A lost wetland that few people even know about is to be re-created just outside Somerset West, near Cape Town, South Africa.  The Klein Zeekoevlei (small hippo pan) wetland, will form a central component of the Sitari Field Lifestyle Estate, situated between the N2 and the R104, just north of Macassar. Read more »

JoCo Lake no joke

5 June 2012

Johnson County Lake in Kansas was the cause of several dog deaths and about a dozen ill people last year.  2012 seems to be more of the same with an algal advisory already issued due to the presence of blue-green algae in the lake!

Residents of Kansas, who now have one less lake to go to on weekends, should be thankful that their state officials are taking their jobs seriously!  Toxic algae get a lot less attention here in South Africa.  I recently reviewed some data, collected during the high (recreational) season, from a major recreational dam, which revealed horrifyingly-high levels of algal toxins.  No warnings were published, no advisories issued!  All willfully ignored in a dam, which were it in the USA, would be off-limits almost year-round. Read more »

Zandvlei fish kills: don’t ignore the algal wildcard

17 April 2012

Zandvlei near Cape Town, South Africa, is in the throes of an extended fish kill, to all intents quite a substantial event {see link}.  As with many, seemingly-inexplicable fish kill events, the cause is attributed to oxygen depletion – which can indeed cause fish kills.  However, in the shallow, windy environment of Zandvlei, dominated by pondweed as opposed to algae, nighttime oxygen levels should not drop so far as to cause a sustained fish kill.   Read more »