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Spruit’s Ramsar status review

The Blesbokspruit's (BBS) Ramsar status will be reviewed at a meeting between stakeholders in Nigel on August 30 (Friday).

The BBS, one of southern Africa’s larger wetlands, was once a small stream. It developed into a wetland area as a result of mines pumping excess underground water and discharging it into the stream.

This caused flooding and vast stretches of shallow water were created and in 1986 this area was recognised as a site to be included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

The BBS supports significant numbers of waterfowl, including up to 4 000 yellow-billed duck (Anas erythrorhyncha) and 1 000 spur-winged goose (Plectropterus gambensis) in the dry season, when levels are maintained artificially at a high level.

The high-productivity water provides food for greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), and lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor), which are both under threat on on the South African Red Data Book.

Other notable birds include avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), purple heron (Ardea purpe rata), spoonbill (Platalea alba), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis). African marsh harrier (Circus ranivorus), which has been displaced from much of the veld, maintains a strong population here. There are at least three heron roosts with a total of over 3 500 birds.

In 1996, the spruit was listed on the Montreux Record, Ramsar’s monitoring tool, which alerts the convention of the decline in the ecological character of the site. It was recognised that the area required attention as the ecosystem functions were at risk after the closure of one of the mines.

It has been 17 years that the site has been on the Montreux Record and a lot has happened over the years, which has prompted the Gauteng Department of Agriculture to now review the status of the Blesbokspruit Ramsar site.

“The following categories will be investigated: To regain full status; to maintain on the Montreux Record; and to de-list from the Ramsar record,” explains Vukosi Ndlopfu from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: Biodiversity Management Directorate,

The department invites all interested and affected parties to a stakeholder engagement meeting at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary at 10am tomorrow.

“There will be various presentations on the day, including water quality, bird numbers and diversity, advantages of full status, Montreux record and de-listing of site, and challenges facing the system,” says Ndlopfu.

If you are interested in attending the meeting, RSVP on vukosi.ndlopfu@gauteng.gov.za or mpfareleni.mashau@gauteng.gov.za.

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