July 2015
Contents / home
Special award for Limpopo learner
National Science Olympiad Awards
Youth Science Focus Week
Showing career opportunities to girls
Africa Code Week
FameLab International Competition
My FameLab experience
Debates winners off to New York
Finding solutions to energy problems
Centenary of Proxima Centauri
Meet SAASTA's Gao Tiro
Refocusing our lens on our youth
Science on a research vessel
Partnership to conserve water
Managing freshwater resources
Rhodes and SAIAB promote science
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

New partnership to conserve our precious water resources

  From left: SAIAB managing director, Dr Angus Paterson, SAIAB principal scientist, Dr Olaf Weyl, EWT field officer, Christine Coppinger and the manager of the EWT's Source to Sea Programme, Bridget Corrigan
  The Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape Province
  The threatened freshwater-dependent Amathole malachite (Chlorolestes apricans) (Picture: Warwick Tarboton)
  The critically endangered Amathole toad (Vandijkophrynus amatolicus) is unique to the grasslands of the Amathole Mountains in the Hogsback area (Picture: EWT)
  A primary focus of the Amathole Freshwater Species Conservation Project is the removal of alien vegetation from sensitive water source areas
The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) signed a memorandum of understanding on 7 May 2015 with the intention of collaborating on key water-related conservation projects in the country.

SAIAB is a world-renowned centre for aquatic research, focusing primarily on fish research. The institute provides information that managers and conservationists can effectively implement.

The EWT is a local NGO that implements high-impact conservation action across southern and East Africa. The need for evidence-based conservation in the freshwater biome is huge and this is precisely why this partnership has been forged.

SAIAB's managing director, Dr Angus Paterson, and principal scientist, Dr Olaf Weyl met with the manager of the EWT's Source to Sea Programme, Bridget Corrigan and field officer, Christine Coppinger on 5 March this year to discuss existing and future collaborations on freshwater and marine conservation projects.

The pilot collaborative project is the Amathole Freshwater Species Conservation Project (AFSCP) in the Eastern Cape. This project has benefited from research conducted by Dr Bruce Ellender and Dr Olaf Weyl of SAIAB on the impacts of alien fish invasions on indigenous fishes in the Keiskamma upper catchments. The conservation recommendations emanating from this research are being implemented by the AFSCP.

Empowering communities

To address water security and poverty challenges, the AFSCP will establish natural resource conservation through the generation of a water-linked green-economy in the Amathole region of the Eastern Cape. The two key objectives running concurrently are firstly to improve natural resource protection and secondly to empower communities to value the resources under their custodianship and to enter the green economy. Being a biodiversity hotspot and a high water yield zone, this area is extremely important.

A primary focus of the project is the removal of alien vegetation from sensitive water source areas, which are the lifeblood of numerous river systems within the Eastern Cape Province. Many of the affected stream environments are essential for the provision of freshwater to the surrounding communities, while also being important habitats for a number of threatened species.

Five threatened freshwater-dependent species occur within the Amathole: two fishes (Border barb Barbus trevelyani and Eastern Cape rocky Sandelia bainsii), a damselfly (Amathole malachite Chlorolestes apricans) and two amphibians (Amathole toad Vandijkophrynus amatolicus and Hogsback chirping frog Anhydrophryne rattrayi). Currently there is no formal protection of these species or, to a large extent, their habitat.

Rehabilitation and stewardship

In collaboration with SAIAB, conservation plans are currently being developed for the Border barb and the Eastern Cape rocky within the Keiskamma catchment. Since research indicates that these species are largely affected by habitat destruction and degradation, rehabilitation and stewardship work with communities are some of the key conservation actions being implemented.

This illustrates the effectiveness of the collaboration on conservation efforts between research institutions such as SAIAB and conservation organisations like the EWT.