Floating Wetlands: creating habitat and clearing water

Floating islands

Small steps to making a big difference

The term “floating wetlands” might at first conjure up an image of large swathes of dense papyrus reeds bobbing up and down in the Okavango Delta. However, these are floating wetlands of a different, slightly smaller kind, popping up on farm dams in the Western Cape creating habitat and clearing water. In early 2015, BirdLife South Africa and NCC Environmental Services, with funding from the Table Mountain Fund, initiated a pilot project to develop mechanisms for improving water bird habitat on farm dams. After spending much time traversing the backroads of the region we noticed that very often these dams appeared sterile, providing very little refuge for birds and biodiversity. But did it need to be that way? Or was it possible to turn these isolated, artificial water bodies into havens for biodiversity?

Our initial investigations revealed the obvious fact that these are working dams, whose water levels fluctuate annually as they are filled and subsequently drained for irrigation. The changes in water level prevent vegetation from establishing and surviving. So, the habitat we envisaged would need to rise and fall with the water levels…and thus were born the floating wetlands.

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