Biodiversity Conservation
What we do
The Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area (SMA) is found within a biodiversity hotspot - the Agulhas Plain, at the southernmost tip of Africa. What makes the Nuwejaars Wetland Ecosystem so important? The region is the largest storehouse of lowland fynbos in the world, while the endangered Renosterveld is also found here. Lowland fynbos - while biologically rich - is also perhaps the most threatened vegetation type. Fynbos plant species like the Protea Pudens and Erica Regia are endemic to the region, and are under threat.

At the same time, wetlands in the region have remained unprotected with devastating effects - until now. Nearly a quarter of wetlands on the Agulhas Plain have already been lost. A crucial wetland site in the heart of the Special Management Area, (which is fed by the Nuwejaars River), constitutes the largest natural freshwater lake in South Africa, known as Soetendalsvlei. It leads to the De Mond Estuary, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The Cape Action for People and the Environment (C.A.P.E.) describes the Nuwejaars Wetland Ecosystem as 'highly irreplaceable'.
The rivers and streams that feed into the Nuwejaars River are vital habitats for endangered species such as the Nuwejaars redfin.

Despite the biodiversity value of the Nuwejaars Wetland Ecosystem, this heritage has come under threat. Invasive alien plants have spread rapidly throughout the Agulhas Plain. Uncontrolled fires have increased in frequency (largely due to the increase in alien plants, which burn easily). Large floods have damaged wetlands, and resulted in the loss of carbon-storing peat. And all of this has been exacerbated by climate change.

That's why the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area made it a top priority to rehabilitate core conservation areas and cultural features throughout the region. Through funding received from the
German government, more than 3000 hectares of land was cleared of alien plants. Cut aliens were then chipped, and used in Eco-Log structures in wetland rehabilitation (decomposed chips over time form the basis of peat). Indigenous trees were planted along riverbanks, to prevent alien re-growth.

Game that became extinct on the Agulhas Plain in previous centuries have also now been reintroduced. Buffalo, hippo (both last seen here between 150 and 200 years ago) and hartebeest now roam the land within the Special Management Area (SMA). Eland, 'quagga' and bontebok were also released on the Nuwejaars land.

The reintroduction of game forms part of the fight against climate change on the Agulhas Plain. Wild animals are much less destructive than livestock to the sensitive natural habitat. Hippos, too, facilitate wetland rehabilitation by spreading the water and unblocking channels as they walk.

At the same time, the game offers
nature-based tourism opportunities within the Special Management Area (SMA). Breeding and marketing of the game will furthermore allow the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area to utilise them as biodiversity products - a key economic driver, and an integral part in becoming sustainable.

Revitalising Ecosystems
Many natural systems suffered at the hands of man’s expanding influence on the Agulhas Plain during
previous centuries – with habitats and species reaching the point of extinction or near-extinction. The Nuwejaars Wetland SMA is now re-establishing these ecosystems.
The Nuwejaars Wetland SMA is rehabilitating its key areas and cultural features. More
Enhancing the wellbeing of all who live here is an imperative for the SMA. More
Our tourism venture will include training for operators and entrepreneurs. More
Production and food security is enhanced through sustainable use of land. More
Sustainably-utilised products will prove a key
economic driver for communities here.
By developing the SMA's infrastructure, we can
unlock the area's sustainable capital.