Wetlands are vital habitats of rich biodiversity and have an extremely important role to play in our environment. In South Africa, wetlands include marshes, swamps, pans and vleis, and are considered a unique ecosystem. A wetland is an area of land saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, and are often home to a variety of plants and animals. Sadly, however, many natural wetland areas in South Africa have been destroyed due to agriculture, housing developments, invasive plant species, and sewerage effluent.
Why should we protect our wetlands?
Water is essential for life, and wetlands are important for maintaining fresh water supplies. Wetlands provide a host of benefits from catching and storing rainwater, refilling underground water reserves and filtering salty water to trapping sediments and retaining excess nutrients and other pollutants. Wetlands also assist with flood prevention since they act like giant sponges.
How are we destroying our wetlands?
South Africa’s wetlands are highly threatened and destroyed at an alarming rate. Draining of wetlands to make space for building developments or agriculture remains one of the biggest threats to such areas. Other threats include pollution, the introduction of invasive fauna and flora species, and climate change.
What is the status of wetlands here in South Africa?
We have already lost around 50% of the original wetland area. Approximately 300 000 wetlands remain, making up only 2.4% of South Africa’s area. Of South Africa’s 791 wetland ecosystem types, 48% are critically endangered, 12% are endangered, 5% are vulnerable, and 35% are least threatened making wetlands the most threatened ecosystems of all in South Africa. Over 70% of South Africa’s wetland ecosystems have little to no protection, and only around 11% of our wetland ecosystems are considered well protected.
What can be done to protect our wetlands?
While many wetlands are privately owned, their protection remains a public concern. There is so much that can still be done to save our wetlands, and education remains the number one priority. It is essential that we continue creating awareness around the importance of wetlands. Environmentalist companies such as Letsolo Water and Environmental Services, government officials and communities from across the country as well as the public in general, all have an important role to play in ensuring our precious wetlands are preserved for generations to come.
It all starts with YOU!
If you have any questions regarding the protection and preservation of wetlands within your community, please get in touch with us here at Letsolo Water and Environmental Services: https://lwes.co.za/contact-us/
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