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Ecological revival of the Van Stadens River

Private landowners and land managers are leading the way in restoring the ecological integrity of the Van Stadens River system.

Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) said that over past decades the southern tip of the Eastern Cape coastal plateau has become heavily infested with invasive alien plants, with devastating effects like fires and threatened water security in the region.

This continues to threaten sustainable farming and living in the area. The rich biodiversity of the area went into steep decline as unique indigenous, and often endemic habitat shrank to a fraction of what it should be.

“Perhaps the most visible example of the destruction caused by the 2017 wildfire disaster fuelled by invasive alien plants that caused damage to the historic landmark Woodridge College.

The series of wildfire disasters in recent times did provide landowners with a window of opportunity to address invasive alien plant growth and spread whilst new growth was easy to suppress.

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Unfortunately, aggressive regrowth of pines, Port Jackson, Long-leaved wattle, Black wattle and Blackwood, to name but a few, has now set the scene for a repeat of the intense and destructive wildfires that did untold damage to an already fragile environment, said Meiring.

According to Meiring, landowners and land managers along the Van Stadens River took drastic action to improve the predicament of the once pristine river and catchment, and much work has already been done in terms of invasive alien clearing along the riverbed, streams and wetlands.

He says in many places where invasive plants were removed, nature responded fast and remarkably well.

For example, clusters of Yellowwood trees appeared seemingly out of nowhere along the riverbank on the lower reaches of the riverbed, whilst increased water flow no doubt has an immense impact on the general river health and the state of the estuary and the marine and aquatic life it supports.