More than half of SA ecosystems are threatened

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 Nov 2011

South Africa’s water resources and adjacent ecosystems are in a terrible state, with only 35% of the total length of the country’s mainstream rivers still in good condition.

The high levels of threat results particularly from intense land pressures.

The recently released Atlas of Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas reveals that 57% of river ecosystems and 65% of wetland ecosystems are threatened.

Mandy Driver, the SA National Biodiversity Institute’s manager of biodiversity policy, said the Biodiversity Assessment published seven years ago highlighted the poor state of many river ecosystems, with the majority of the country’s large rivers rated “critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.

“We needed a strategic intervention to help sustain and conserve freshwater ecosystems, and the Atlas is the result.”

The team, who spent three years researching and compiling the Atlas, found tributaries overall were in a “far better state” than mainstream rivers.

“They also support the sustainability of hard-working rivers further downstream by diluting poor quality water and flushing pollutants. Only 35% of the length of mainstream rivers is in good condition, compared to 57% of tributaries. Continue reading

Global ecosystems disrupted by decline of large predators

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 July 2011

The decline of large predators and other “apex consumers” at the top of the food chain has disrupted ecosystems across the planet.

The removal of predators like sea otters has consequences for all of us

The finding is reported by an international team of scientists in a paper in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

The study looked at research results from a wide range of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and concluded “the loss of apex consumers is arguably humankind’s most pervasive influence on the natural world.”

According to lead author James Estes, a marine ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, large animals were once ubiquitous across the globe. They shaped the structure and dynamics of ecosystems.

Their decline, largely caused by humans through hunting and habitat fragmentation, has far-reaching and often surprising consequences, including changes in vegetation, wildfire frequency, infectious diseases, invasive species, water quality and nutrient cycles.

Plummeting numbers of apex consumers are most pronounced among the big predators, such as wolves on land, sharks in the oceans, and large fish in freshwater ecosystems. There also are dramatic declines in populations of many large herbivores, such as elephants and bison.

The loss of apex consumers from an ecosystem triggers an ecological phenomenon known as a “trophic cascade,” a chain of effects moving down through lower levels of the food chain. Continue reading

Pacific marine invasion a threat to Atlantic fish stocks

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 29 June 2011

Tiny algae and a whale native to the Pacific have crossed a thawing Arctic Ocean in what may portend a marine invasion threatening Atlantic fish stocks, scientists said on Sunday.

A gray whale spotted in the Mediterrannean is believed to have swum from the Pacific through newly ice-free waters in the Arctic Ocean

The Pacific algae, absent from the North Atlantic for 800,000 years according to fossil records, apparently returned after climate change thawed sea ice and currents carried the microscopic plants across the Arctic Ocean, they said.

And a gray whale spotted in the Mediterranean in 2010 – 300 years after the species was hunted to extinction in the Atlantic region – is believed to have swum from the Pacific through newly ice-free waters in the Arctic Ocean in summertime.

“It’s a Pandora’s Box,” said professor Chris Reid, from the Sir Alister Harvey Foundation for Ocean Science in Britain who said the algae had now drifted almost as far south as New York.

“We can expect more species to come through from the Pacific,” he told Reuters. Upheavals to life in the seas have been documented by European scientists from 17 marine institutions in 10 nations in a project called CLAMER.

An influx of species could “be extremely damaging…for fisheries in the North Atlantic,” Reid said. New arrivals would compete with established species such as cod or salmon. Continue reading

Shocking ecosystems spur water crisis

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 22 March 2011

By: Duncan Alfreds

The ecosystems in SA are under threat and unless something is done urgently, the country will face a water crisis, a researcher has found.

Up to 85% of our estuaries are critically endangered .

“Our ecosystems are in a shocking state,” CSIR researcher Dr Jeanne Nel told News24 at the World Water Day 2011 conference in Cape Town.

Nel’s remarks at the conference were underpinned by the water report by the CSIR and released to the public. It showed that water ecosystems were under threat from a variety of factors, including development and industry.

“Up to 85% of our estuaries are critically endangered and in the past five years we’ve been able to map the zone of an estuary. Our big systems are in trouble,” she said.

Estuaries form the transition ground between river and ocean environments and play a critical role in managing the marine ecosystem, but they are also sensitive to ecological damage from farming or industry. Continue reading

SEED Awards recognises entrepreneurs

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 04 November 2010

A novel solar device that turns waste heat into electricity in rural China, a Ugandan business that manufactures stationery from agricultural waste, a bamboo bicycle project in Ghana and a female-run business in South Africa making a hand-held laundry device that saves water are among the 30 winners of the 2010 SEED Awards, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

Bamboo bicycle from Ghana

The SEED Awards recognise inspiring social and environmental entrepreneurs whose businesses can help meet sustainable development challenges. By helping entrepreneurs to scale-up their activities, the SEED Initiative, which is hosted by UNEP, aims to boost local economies and tackle poverty, while promoting the sustainable use of resources and ecosystems.

This year, in addition to seeking innovative start-ups throughout the developing world, the SEED Awards had a special focus on Africa, placing particular emphasis on initiatives from South Africa, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda and Senegal. This focus was part of a larger project linked with UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative and was funded largely by the European Union. Continue reading