NUWEJAARS WETLANDS PROJECT AND ECOLOGICAL RECOVERY
Updated: Mar 10
The Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (NWSMA) close to Cape Agulhas is a conservation venture made up of 25 landowners who have signed title deed restrictions to protect the area. With the Elim community, they are working to restore these wetlands to ecological health for the benefit of people and nature.
The work at Nuwejaars is the focus of this year’s World Wetlands Day, namely the restoration of wetlands and their importance as a source of fresh water. Through the restoration work taking place, including invasive alien clearing and rehabilitation along a 5km stretch of the river, a team of six people now also has secure, full time employment.
The wetlands play a key role in securing groundwater flow for downstream communities and towns. They are also internationally important from a conservation perspective, feeding the Heuningnes estuary at the CapeNature De Mond Reserve, a Ramsar site (wetlands of international importance).
A vital part of the work at Nuwejaars is the restoration of palmiet, an indigenous plant that helps purify water and sequester carbon. Palmiet has dominated these wetlands for centuries, forming the basis of the peat-like soils found here. Peat wetlands are vital in the fight against climate change, storing carbon for as long as it remains waterlogged, and helping to reduce the impact of floods.
By the late 1990s, many of these wetlands faced increasing threats, being overrun by invasive alien plants that reduced water flow. This was one of the reasons for the founding of the conservation venture and WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) has been supporting the work since 2018, recognising the importance of the area.