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Namaqua Coastal Area

The Namaqua Coastal Area lies between the Spoeg and Sout Rivers on the west coast of South Africa, within the Namaqua bioregion. It includes three functional estuaries, has high productivity due to local upwelling, and although species richness is fairly low, the communities have a high biomass. This EBSA comprises portions of several threatened habitat types, including some that are Critically Endangered, which are still in relatively good condition due to much lower levels of anthropogenic pressures in the Northern Province relative to other coastal areas. The Namaqua Coastal Area is also important for conservation of estuarine areas and coastal fish species.

EBSA Description: Namaqua Coastal Area

General Information

Summary

The Namaqua coastal area is on the west coast of South Africa, within the Namaqua bioregion, and is characterized by high productivity and biomass of communities along its shores. A large proportion of the area is characterized by habitat that is in relatively good (natural/pristine) condition due to much lower levels of anthropogenic pressures relative to other coastal areas in the Northern Province. Consequently, the area is important for several threatened habitat types represented there (including some that have been classified as Critically Endangered). The area is also important for conservation of estuarine areas and coastal fish species. In summary, the area is highly relevant in terms of the following EBSA criteria: “productivity”, “importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats” and “naturalness”. 

MARISMA updates

The site description has been updated; changes to the delineation are being discussed.

Introduction of the area

The Namaqua coastal area is located from the estuary of the Spoeg River to the estuary of the Sout River in the Namaqua biogeographic region (bioregion) of South Africa (Sink et al., 2012), and from the high-water mark to 120 m depth. It consists of Namaqua coastal, inshore and inner shelf type habitat (Sink et al., 2012). The associated pelagic environment is characterized by upwelling, giving rise to very cold waters with very high productivity/chlorophyll levels (Lagabrielle 2009). Altogether, the area includes three functional estuaries (van Niekerk and Turpie, 2012).

Description of location

The area is within the national jurisdiction of South Africa, occurring on the west coast, in the Namaqua bioregion. It is bounded to the north and south by the Spoeg and the Sout river estuaries, respectively.

 

Area details

Feature description of the area

The area consists of Namaqua coastal, inshore and inner shelf habitat types (Sink et al., 2012). There are also three functional estuaries in the area (van Niekerk and Turpie 2011). The associated pelagic environment is characterized by very high productivity, high chlorophyll and very cold water (SST mean = 15.2°C), caused by upwelling (Lagabrielle 2009), also serving as an important area for coastal fish (Turpie et al., 2000). Currently the area is unprotected, although the terrestrial habitat adjacent to that part of the area that stretches between two of the river estuaries (the Groen and the Spoeg), is within the Namaqua National Park and is therefore protected.

Feature conditions and future outlook of the proposed area

Sink et al., (2012) estimated the threat status of marine and coastal habitat types identified for South Africa by assessing the (weighted) cumulative impacts of various pressures (e.g., extractive resource use, pollution, development, and others) on each habitat type. Four of the habitat types represented in the area are threatened, including three that are Critically Endangered (Namaqua Inshore Hard Grounds, Namaqua Inshore Reef and Namaqua Sandy Inshore). This implies that very little (<= 20%) of the total area of these habitat types is in natural/pristine condition, and it is expected that important components of biodiversity pattern have been lost and that ecological processes have been heavily modified. A further habitat type represented in the area was classified as Vulnerable (Namaqua Muddy Inshore).

Part of the coastal extent of the area (between the Brak and Sout rivers) is the only stretch of coast in the Northern Cape province of South Africa that is in good (natural/pristine) condition (Sink et al., 2012). This is because very little mining (the most prominent anthropogenic pressure on this coastline) or other pressures have affected this section. Moreover, other habitat in the area (particularly that between the Spoeg and Groen rivers) was assessed to be mainly in fair condition, with little industry present in the area except for some boat-based mining for which SCUBA is used (Majiedt et al., 2013). Of the three functional estuaries in the area, two (the Groen and the Spoeg) have been identified as national priorities for estuarine protection (van Niekerk and Turpie 2012). The lack of marine protected areas in South Africa’s Northern Cape province has been highlighted as an issue of concern (Sink et al., 2012, Majiedt et al., 2013). Considering this and the following characteristics of the area: (i) the threatened habitat types represented there, (ii) the relative lack of human industry and consequently the good condition of much of the habitat in the area, (iii) the connectivity between part of the area and an established terrestrial national park, and (iv) the priority for national estuarine conservation of two of the river mouths in the area, most of the extent of the area has been identified as priority marine/coastal habitat for spatial protection (Sink et al., 2012, Majiedt et al., 2013). Furthermore, a complementarity analysis based on fish distribution data indicated that the coast within the area is a priority area for the conservation of coastal fish species in South Africa (Turpie et al., 2000).

 

Assessment of the area against CBD EBSA criteria

 Uniqueness or rarity

 

Rank: Low

None of the coastal/inshore/inner shelf or pelagic habitat types represented in the area are unique to the area (Sink et al., 2012, Majiedt et al., 2013).

 Special importance for life-history stages of species

 

Rank: Medium

The area is part of the important west coast nursery area for commercially caught pelagic fish species in South Africa (Hutchings et al., 2002). It also includes three functional estuaries that may also provide nurseries for coastal fish species (van Niekerk and Turpie 2000), many of which are in an over-exploited state (Mann 2000). The site also includes breeding habitat for birds, such as white breasted cormorants (Crawford et al., 2013) and roost sites for African black oystercatchers (Rao et al., 2014).

 Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats

 

Rank: High

Three of the different inshore habitat types represented in the area (Namaqua Inshore Hard Grounds, Namaqua Inshore Reef, Namaqua Sandy Inshore) are Critically Endangered (Sink et al., 2012). This implies that very little (≤20 %) of the total area of these habitat types in South Africa is in natural/pristine condition. Another habitat type found in the area (Namaqua Muddy Inshore) was classified as Vulnerable. However, these four habitat types were all found to be in good condition in the area (see Naturalness), therefore the importance of the area for the conservation of these threatened habitat types has been emphasized (Majiedt et al., 2013). The Namaqua Coastal Area is also important for estuarine conservation, given the presence of three functional estuaries and the fact that the conservation status of ±80 % of South Africa’s estuarine area is classified as threatened (van Niekerk and Turpie 2012). Furthermore, populations of many coastal fish species in South Africa are under severe conservation threat, mainly due to overexploitation (Mann 2000), and the Namaqua Coastal Area is a key site for protection of coastal fish species in South Africa (Turpie et al., 2000). 

 Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery

 

Rank:  Medium

The threatened status of habitat types that occur in the focus area (Sink et al., 2012), implies that degradation and some loss of ecosystem processes has been associated with these habitat types in other areas, and therefore that they are vulnerable to effects of human activities.

 Biological productivity

 

Rank: High

The pelagic environment associated with this area is characterized by very cold water, high chlorophyll concentrations and high biological productivity, due to wind-induced upwelling (Hutchings et al., 2009, Lagabrielle 2009). Due to the abundance of nutrients associated with the upwelling, the biomass of communities along the shoreline (intertidal) is significantly higher than in the other two bioregions of South Africa (Bustamante and Branch 1996).

 

 Biological diversity

 

Rank: Low

Although the productivity and biomass of communities along the shore of the Namaqua bioregion where the area occurs is higher than elsewhere in the country, the species diversity is lower than elsewhere (Bustamante and Branch 1996).

 

 Naturalness

 

Rank: High

There is a relative lack of human activities (past and present) in the Namaqua Coastal Area. Consequently, even habitat types that are threatened at a national level are in good condition in this area (Sink et al., 2012), and hence have been highlighted as conservation priority areas along the South African west coast (Majiedt et al., 2013).

 

References

Bustamante, R.H. and Branch, G.M. 1996. Large scale patterns and trophic structure of southern African rocky shores. The roles of geographic variation and wave exposure. Journal of Biogeography 23: 339-351.

Crawford, R.J.M., Randall, R.M., Whittington, P.A., Waller, L., Dyer, B.M., Allan, D.G., Fox, C., Martin, A.P., Upfold, L., Visagie, J., Bachoo, S., Bowker, M., Downs, C.T., Fox, R., Huisamen, J., Makhado, A.B., Oosthuizen, W.H., Ryan, P.G., Taylor R.H., Turpie, J.K. 2013. South Africa's coastal-breeding white-breasted cormorants: population trends, breeding season and movements, and diet. African Journal of Marine Science, 35:4, 473-490.

Hutchings, L., van der Lingen, C.D., Griffiths, M., Roberts, M.R., Beckley, L.E., Sundby, S., 2002. Spawning on the edge: spawning grounds and nursery areas around the South African coast. Marine and Freshwater Research 53, 307–318.

Hutchings, L., C. D. van der Lingen, L. J. Shannon, R. J. M. Crawford, H. M. S. Verheye, C. H. Bartholomae, A. K. van der Plas, D. Louw, A. Kreiner, M. Ostrowski, Q. Fidel, R. G. Barlow, T. Lamont, J. Cotzee, F. Shillington, J. Veitch, J. C. Currie and P. M. S. Monteiro (2009) The Benguela Current: An ecosystem of four components. Progress in Oceanography 83: 15 – 32.

Lagabrielle E. 2009. Preliminary report: National Pelagic Bioregionalisation of South Africa. Cape Town: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Majiedt P, Holness S, Sink K, Oosthuizen A, Chadwick P. 2013. Systematic Marine Biodiversity Plan for the West Coast of South Africa. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town

Mann BQ. 2000. Status Reports for Key Linefish Species. Durban: Oceanographic Research Institute Special Publication.

Rao, A.S., Hockey, P.A.R., Montevecchi, W.A. 2014. Coastal Dispersal by Pre-Breeding African Black Oystercatchers Haematopus Moquini. Marine Ornithology, 42: 105–112.

Sink K, Holness S, Harris L, Majiedt P, Atkinson L, Robinson T, Kirkman S, Hutchings L, Leslie R, Lamberth S, Kerwath S, von der Heyden S, Lombard A, Attwood C, Branch G, Fairweather T, Taljaard S, Weerts S, Cowley P, Awad A, Halpern B, Grantham H, Wolf T. 2012. National Biodiversity Assessment 2011: Technical Report. Volume 4: Marine and Coastal Component. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Turpie JK, Beckley LE, Katua SM. 2000. Biogeography and the selection of priority areas for conservation of South African coastal fishes. Biological Conservation, 92: 59–72

Van Niekerk L. and Turpie JK (eds). 2012. South African National Biodiversity Assessment 2011: Technical Report. Volume 3: Estuary Component. CSIR Report Number CSIR/NRE/ECOS/ER/2011/0045/B. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Stellenbosch.

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NamaquaCoastal

EBSA criteria met at a high (red), medium (orange) or low (yellow) rank. 

 

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