Restoring abandoned salt pans as waterbird habitat

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Johan Wasserman

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Southern African estuaries and saltpans function as important areas for many waterbirds, including Palearctic migratory bird species. The Swartkops Estuary and adjacent saltpans near Port Elizabeth, a Global Important Bird Area (IBA), largely owes its diversity and abundance of waterbirds to the presence of extensive artificial saltworks. The saltpans here are one of the most important mainland breeding sites for seabirds in the region. However, these saltpans have been abandoned due to theft and vandalism of the pump stations, leaving behind four large dry and salinized concentration pans. Consequently, the number and diversity of waterbirds in the IBA has decreased. To restore this important waterbird habitat, estuarine water is to be pumped into the dry pans on a seasonal basis. They will be filled in winter to provide safe nesting sites (i.e. islands in the pans) for the birds and allowed to dry again over summer to provide feeding areas. A restoration plan is presented as well as details of the monitoring necessary to determine the success of the restoration. Baseline data were collected before the pans were filled, including biotic characteristics such as bird abundance, and abiotic features including sediment (electrical conductivity, moisture content, organic content and grain size) and groundwater characteristics (depth to groundwater and salinity). These variables were measured again after the pans had been filled to monitor the success of the management objective. Although the conservation of waterbirds is a global issue, this needs to be addressed locally through management and conservation of wetland habitats.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration