The Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC) recently concluded the Groot Winterhoek Freshwater Stewardship Corridor Project which secured 9000 ha of private land under formal conservation through CapeNature’s stewardship programme. The project aimed to expand protected areas within one of the five core biodiversity corridors within the GCBC
by delivering a biodiversity corridor capable of conserving priority terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and species with the view to mitigate against the effects of climate change at the landscape scale.
The 9000 ha includes one Contract Nature Reserve on the farm Tandfontein in the Koue Bokkeveld and a Protected Environment on the farm Visgat in the upper Olifants River. The Tandfontein property is a biodiversity hotspot with two endangered vegetation units and more than fifty red list plant species. Visgat borders the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area forming part of the World Heritage Site buffer zone and is a key property in the upper Olifants River for the recruitment of Clanwilliam Yellowfish and Clanwilliam Sawfin. The upper Olifants River is a key area for both of these threatened and endemic freshwater fishes. Stewardship negotiations were also initiated with three other key properties in the upper Olifants River but these could not be concluded within the time frame of the project.
In addition to the hectares secured, the project successfully eradicated spotted bass, an invasive alien fish from the Thee River, one of the key tributaries in the Olifants River System with six endemic freshwater fish species. This was the first manual eradication of alien fish in South Africa and the lessons learned can be applied to similar projects elsewhere.
Surveys were undertaken of all the tributaries in Groot Winterhoek Freshwater Stewardship Corridor to record the distribution of alien fish and vegetation. This information is vital for further rehabilitation efforts and is already in use by Working for Water in the Citrusdal area. Several new distribution records for indigenous fish were also recorded and captured in the CapeNature State of Biodiversity database.
The project also included an awareness campaign which included presentations to 960 school learners and 386 farm workers in the Groot Winterhoek Freshwater Stewardship Corridor.
The project has highlighted that an integrated catchment approach is needed to address sustainable water resource use. Not only is stewardship and awareness needed to ensure sustainable use and better management but the enforcement of legislation and the eradication of alien species is also required. Valuable insight into engaging the private sector and government around issues of sustainable freshwater ecosystem management has emerged.
“The Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC) and CapeNature would like to thank the Table Mountain Fund and WWF for their investment and partnership in strengthening the GCBC in its Groot Winterhoek corridor. The investment unlocked the potential to pilot ground breaking work in freshwater conservation around restoration, private sector involvement and ecosystem conservation at a landscape level”, said Johan Burger.
The Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor planning domain extends from Niewoudtville in the north to Groot-Winterhoek in the south, Eland’s Bay in the west and the Tanqua Karoo National Park in the east. This is an area of approximately 1,8 million ha.