The naked eye cannot see wetlands absorbing water like a sponge and slowly releasing it to various areas.
During this time, wetlands absorb pollutants and also purify water ensuring better water quality is released elsewhere. Wetlands provide a wide range of ecosystem services including the regulation of stream flow which is essential for water security; flood attenuation; flood protection, and sediment control.
The degradation of the catchments in which wetlands occur is as much of a problem as the outright loss of the freshwater habitats themselves, as systemic degradation reduces the ability of freshwater ecosystem to effectively perform their natural functions and recover from environmental shocks and stresses.
In addition wetlands protect our shores and reduce impacts of floods. They also provide habitat for animals and plants and contain a wide diversity of life.
The picturesque waterscapes of Wilderness alone attract many International visitors for their visible beauty from the N2. They meander around the town of Wilderness situated a stone throw away from the town of Wilderness. Uses of land in the Garden Route include Protected Areas (also Goukamma Nature reserve managed by Cape Nature) the National Park (protected terrestrial), Marine Protected Areas, Natural, water, plantations, urban, mining, cultivation and others’ according to the SANParks Global Environmental Change Assessment (2016).
Three Lakes in the Wilderness Lakes system made up of Rondevlei, Langvlei and Eilandvlei is a Ramsar site (wetland of global significance). The selection criteria for Ramsar sites are specified by the Ramsar Convention also known as the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
They consider factors including and not limited to ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. The site in Wilderness includes a dune system with associated thickets, woodlands, marshes, and reedbeds. Important numbers of locally-migrant resident birds as well as staging and breeding birds use the site. It is home to 285 native plant species, 32 fish species (several of which use the site as a nursery area), and a diverse marine invertebrate fauna.
Birds in the area include and are not limited to: Grey heron, Kelp gull, Little egret, Black- winged stilt, White-breasted cormorant, great crested grebe, yellow-billed duck, Cape shoveler, Red-knobbed coot and others.
#KeepUrbanWetlands is this year’s theme for World Wetland Day making a case for the protection of wetlands in urban settings. Residents and visitors are encouraged to visit wetlands protected by SANParks in the Garden Route National Park. Bird hides are open in Wilderness for bird watching including Malachite, Rondevlei and Gralinule.