The Knysna Estuary is the only natural estuarine bay on the subcontinent, with both Durban Bay and Richards Bay having been significantly altered from their natural state. The Knysna Estuary is also the most important of South Africa’s 290 estuaries in terms of conservation importance.
The contents of the various chapters of this book are written by experts in their field, most with a strong knowledge and direct research experience of the Knysna Estuary. The aim throughout is to enable and encourage readers to appreciate life within the estuary, understand its structure and functioning, and empower people to communicate its value and conservation importance from an informed position.
Just as rarity is one of the most prized qualities of a gemstone, so it is that the unique nature the Knysna Estuary affords it singular importance in the Garden Route and to South Africa. In this book we introduce readers to the multifaceted nature of the Knysna Estuary and how the biotic and abiotic components function together as a system.
Knysna Estuary – Jewel of the Garden Route book
Three things set this book apart. First, the scope spans from the deep-time origins of the system to the modern world. It opens with five chapters that introduce the system, deal with early human use, palaeontology, physical development and nature, and its role as the meeting place between river and sea. Pivotal is the fact that towering on either side of the mouth are the twin rocky headlands that stabilise the estuary, so that much of it is dominated by tidal exchange. Second, the estuary has a rich scientific literature; but these papers are not accessible to the average person, so this synthesis is welcome. The book is written by renowned experts but in a communicative style that will be a joy for all to read. Thirdly, it is liberally illustrated, increasing the pleasure of the read and capturing its beauty and wonder. Four chapters deal with the plants and algae, invertebrates, the fishes and the water birds, and the book then concludes with the effects of climate change, the complexities of management, and the way forward.
The lecture will be made available after the event via a link on the SAIAB website (www.saiab.ac.za).
This book is dedicated to the late Professor Brian Allanson, who retired as Chair of the Zoology Department and Dean of Science at Rhodes University in 1988, and built his retirement home in Steenbok Crescent on Leisure Isle. Brian was one of the key drivers behind the launch of the Knysna Basin Project (KBP) in 1995 and the establishment of a research laboratory that supported the aims and objectives of this project. As Director of the KBP, he was also responsible for the compilation of a dedicated volume in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, covering various scientific aspects of the Knysna Estuary. These papers have formed important reference works for the chapters presented in this book and taken our ecological understanding of the estuary to new levels. In this regard we thank Brian for his dedicated service in promoting research and supporting wise estuarine management, based primarily on scientific facts rather than opinion or conjecture. It is therefore most appropriate that the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the KBP to help further Brian’s dream of a healthy Knysna system for both the aquatic biota and people of this Garden Route gem.
With an eye for fine art and strong networks across various fields, Mr Read has led a distinguished career in the art world and uses his influence to support several philanthropic causes.
Drawing on his exceptional networks, he has long been a champion in mobilising support for WWF. His passion for science, art and nature can be traced throughout his career. Following his national service he enrolled at the University of Cape Town and graduated with a BSc, majoring in Zoology and Archaeology. After a year at Christie’s Auctions & Private Sales in London, he began his journey at the Everard Read Gallery – South Africa’s longest established dealers in fine art – in 1980 before becoming its director in 1994. Today he chairs the Everard Read Group of Galleries, which has offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Franschhoek and London.
Mr Read is a founding trustee of the Rhino and Elephant Foundation as well as the Palaeontological Scientific Trust. He was chair of the Ditsong Museums which is the governing body of six major natural history and cultural museums in Gauteng. He currently serves on the Board of the Turkana Basin Institute which supports scientific research at Lake Turkana, Kenya.
Professor Alan Whitfield is one of the book editors as well as authors of chapters 1, 8 and 12.
Professor Alan Whitfield joined the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology (precursor to NRF-SAIAB) in 1978 and retired from the NRF-SAIAB in 2018. He has strong interests in estuarine ecological research, with particular emphasis on the ichthyofauna. His early work focused on the feeding ecology of estuary-associated fish species, and this evolved into gaining an understanding of the use of fishes as indicators of ecological and environmental change within estuaries. In recent decades, he has also focused on the classification of estuaries, fish larval ecology, stable isotopes in estuaries, fish nursery areas in estuaries, conservation of fishes in estuaries, fish population dynamics, and the importance of river flow to estuarine functioning. These research areas coincided with a growing interest in global change, in particular the influence of climate change on the distribution patterns and ecology of fishes in southern African estuaries. Since his retirement, Alan has focused on global reviews, including books, dealing with the biology and ecology of fishes in estuaries.
Professor Charles Breen is both one of the book editors and authors of chapters 1 and 12.
Charles Breen is an Emeritus Professor and Fellow of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He lectured at Rhodes University and the University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu-Natal) before being appointed Director of the Institute of Natural Resources where he served for twelve years. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research for ten years and chaired the Board of the Midlands Community College for Further Education and Training. Breen holds a PhD in plant physiology from Rhodes University and has been a Visiting Professor at a number of institutions in the United States of America. He has devoted much of his life to research on aquatic ecosystems, including estuaries, and their relationships with society. His contribution has been recognized through award of a gold medal by the Southern African Association of Aquatic Scientists, a KwaZulu-Natal Conservation Award and the Mondi Wetlands Award for Wetland Science and Research.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Authored by Professor Alan Whitfield and co-authored by Professor Charles Breen.
This chapter introduces the readers to the contents of the book, with a one-page summary of each chapter being presented.
Chapter 2 : Early humans and changing landscapes in the Knysna region of the southern Cape
Authored by Professor Naomi Cleghorn and co-authored by Professor Sarah Wurz.
Naomi Cleghorn’s ongoing research and archaeological fieldwork explores the behavior and cognitive evolution of early humans and their contemporaries. She is particularly interested in understanding human social and technological adaptation in the context of ecological stress, and the ways this may or may not have differed from closely related groups, like Neanderthals. Studying early modern humans as they become a global species requires a multiregional approach, and an inter-species comparison. As a result, her field and laboratory research includes human and Neanderthal-related projects in the Caucasus of Southern Russia, as well as field work in early human contexts of South Africa. Her training is in archaeology (with an emphasis in Old World Paleolithic studies and zooarchaeology) and biological anthropology (with an emphasis on human skeletal anatomy). She has field and research experience in Eurasia, Africa, and North America, in time periods ranging from the historic through the Miocene.
Chapter 3 : Tracks Cast in Stone
Authored by Dr Charles Helm with co-authors Dr Hayley Cawthra, Dr Jan De Vynck, Mr Mark Dixon, Dr Willo Stear, Mr Guy Thesen and Dr Fred van Berkel.
Charles Helm is a research associate with the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. Following the discovery of Cretaceous dinosaur trackways near Tumbler Ridge by his eight-year-old son and a friend in 2000, he was a founding member of the Tumbler Ridge Museum in 2002, and through this organisation he helped establish a local palaeontology research centre, which specialises in ichnology. He has served on the museum board of directors as president, vice-president and secretary. He has made Cretaceous dinosaur trackway discoveries and Triassic fish and marine reptile discoveries. He led the drive for the successful designation of the Tumbler Ridge Unesco Global Geopark. He is the author of nine books, one of which is a book on dinosaurs for children. He has applied the palaeontological knowledge he acquired in Canada to his native South Africa since 2007, documenting the wealth of Pleistocene fossil trackways that he and his research team have discovered along a 350km stretch of coastline, and has led research publications on these findings.
Chapter 4 : Evolution of the Knysna Estuary
Authored by Professor Andrew Cooper and co-authored by Professor Andrew Green.
Andrew Cooper is a leading researcher in coastal geoscience, with more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and a dozen books to his name. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. He is based at Ulster University in Northern Ireland and collaborates with a global network of leading scientists. As well as his UKZN Honorary Chair, he has held honorary positions in Brazil, Australia and the United States.
Chapter 5 : Knysna Estuary—Meeting Place of River and Sea
Authored by Professor Jon Largier and co-authored by Dr Lucienne Human.
John Largier is Professor of Coastal Oceanography at the University of California Davis (UCD), resident at Bodega Marine Laboratory. Prior to 2004, he was Research Oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He has also held positions at the University of Cape Town and the National Research Institute for Oceanology (CSIR) in South Africa. His research, teaching and public service is motivated by contemporary environmental issues and centered on the role of transport in ocean, bay, nearshore and estuarine waters. His work has addressed transport of plankton, larvae, contaminants, pathogens, heat, salt, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and sediment – and he places this work in the context of issues as diverse as marine reserves, fisheries, mariculture, beach pollution, wastewater discharge, wildlife health, desalination, river plumes, coastal power plants, kelp forests, wetlands, marine mining, coastal zone management and impacts of coastal development. At UCD he heads the Coastal Oceanography Group. Dr Largier is a leader in developing the field of “environmental oceanography” through linking traditional oceanographic study to critical environmental issues. Dr Largier serves on the Science Advisory Team for the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), the Governing Council for CeNCOOS (Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System), the Sanctuary Advisory Committee for the Gulf of Farallones, and several other advisory boards. He is president of the California Estuarine Research Society. In 2002- 2004, Dr Largier played a significant role in advising the state on beach pollution and in the late 1990’s, he played a key role in developing the knowledge foundation for the new coastal zone management policy in South Africa. He is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow. Following undergraduate studies in Maths and Physics, he obtained a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) in 1987.
Chapter 6 : The Role of Plants and Algae in the Functioning of the Knysna Estuary
Authored by Mr Johan Wasserman and co-authored by Professor Janine Adams and Dr Lucienne Human.
Johan Wasserman is a PhD student at the Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, where he is part of Iluka Chair in Vegetation Science and Biogeography team. His research is in collaboration with Iluka Resources and Alcoa Australia. With a research background in plant ecology and environmental management. Johan’s experience lies in estuarine ecology, and past research focused on habitat mapping, investigating anthropogenic impacts on ecological processes, and exploring ecological restoration for the provision of multiple ecosystem services (like carbon sequestration, water quality regulation, and habitat provision). His current research is investigating species pools and dark diversity dynamics in the vegetation of southwestern Australia. His research is geared at developing analytical tools to inform restoration monitoring and target setting.
Chapter 7 : Benthic and Planktonic Invertebrates of the Knysna Estuary
Authored by Professor Richard Barnes and co-authored by Professor Tris Wooldridge and Professor Alan Hodgson.
After Richard Barnes’ BSc Hons in Zoology at University College London (1965) and PhD at the University of Queensland, Brisbane (1968), Richard spent short periods at the University of Bristol and at the CERL Fawley Marine Laboratory before becoming a UTO in the Cambridge Zoology Department from 1972 to 2011. His fieldwork is now carried out mainly from Rhodes (South Africa) and Queensland (Australia), via his honorary positions on the research staff of those universities, being then based at the Knysna Field Laboratory and Moreton Bay Research Station respectively. He is also an Emeritus Fellow of St Catharine’s College Cambridge. Richard is a marine and brackish-water ecologist interested in the benthic invertebrate communities of soft coastal sediments, especially in the spatial patterns of variation displayed by their biodiversity and related phenomena, from latitudinal scales at one extreme to sub-1 m ones at the other. He studies the macrofaunal assemblages that dominate intertidal seagrass beds, mangrove swamps, and bare expanses of sand and mud in a variety of geographical regions, especially in the Garden Route National Park (Western Cape, RSA) and the Moreton Bay Marine Park (Australia), but also in central Indonesia (Taman Nasional Wakatobi), Seychelles (Curieuse Marine National Park) and north-western Europe (including the north Norfolk coast and the Anse Lostrouc’h).
Chapter 8 : Fishes of the Knysna Estuary
Authored by Professor Alan Whitfield and co-authored by Dr Louw Claassens and Mr Kyle Smith.
Despite being situated in a temperate and not a tropical biogeographic region, the Knysna Estuary boasts a rich diversity of bony fishes, sharks and rays. More than 100 fish species have been recorded in the system, making it one of the top three estuaries in the country for fishes. The deep, permanently open mouth between The Heads means that both small and large fish can move freely between the sea and estuary, thus enhancing the importance of this system for fishes.
Chapter 9 : Waterbirds of the Knysna Estuary
Authored by Mr David Allan and co-authored by Dr Ian Russel, Dr Jane Turpie, Mrs Lorna Watt and Mrs Pat Nurse.
David Allan has been Curator of Birds at the Durban Natural Science Museum since 1996. Prior to this he worked as a Senior Scientific Officer at the Avian Demography Unit (1990-1996) and a Research Officer at the FitzPatrick Institute (1987-1990), both at the University of Cape Town. His career in ornithology started at a provincial nature conservation agency where he was a Nature Conservation Officer and later Nature Conservation Scientist. David’s interest in birds is broad, with a particular focus on birds of prey, cranes, bustards, pelagic seabirds, threatened Highveld grassland birds, waterbirds, birds of the Lesotho highlands, bird atlassing, geographical variation in birds and bird identification. David has produced some 692 publications, of which 227 are of a more formal scientific nature and 465 in a semi-popular or popular format; these are almost exclusively in ornithology.
Chapter 10 : Climate change and the Knysna Estuary
Authored by Professor Nicola James and co-authored by Professor Lara van Niekerk and Dr Stephen Lamberth.
Nikki James joined NRF-SAIAB as a scientist in 2009. Her research focuses primarily on the effects of global and climate change on coastal and estuarine fishes as well as the importance of different coastal habitats as nursery areas for juvenile marine fishes within shallow-water seascapes. Prof. James uses two approaches to climate change research; the first is identifying patterns based on observation to detect shifts in species distributions, life history characteristics and abundance related to changing temperature, hydrology and extreme events. The second approach uses ecophysiology as a tool to understand the processes and to identify physiological mechanisms driving the response of fishes to changes in temperature and pH. These studies have improved our understanding of the effect of climatic variability and extreme events on estuarine and coastal ecosystems, particularly in South Africa. Prof. James’ most recent work focuses on fish habitat ecology (how fish interact with their environment) using a mixed-method approach to assess habitat complexity and juvenile fish in shallow water seascapes in estuaries and the nearshore. The main aim is to assess habitat usage and connectivity of fish within shallow-water seascapes.
Chapter 11 : Knysna Estuary—Collaboratively Governing and Managing a Shared Resource
Authored by Dr Dirk Roux and co-authored by Dr Stef Freitag, Dr Ian Russel and Ms Megan Taplin.
Dirk Roux is a stalwart Research Associate in Nelson Mandela University’s Sustainability Research Unit and Freshwater Conservation Scientist in South African National Parks (SANParks). Prof Roux, along with several other SANParks colleagues, is based at the NMMU George Campus as part of a Memorandum of Understanding between NMMU and SANParks. Dirk completed his PhD (Zoology) in 1999 at the University of Johannesburg and now specialises in Conservation of freshwater ecosystems, studying the role of protected areas in providing ecosystem services, Adaptive management of natural resources and focuses on taking a transdisciplinary approach to research. The title of NMMU Adjunct Professor in the Science Faculty was conferred on Dr Dirk Roux by NMU. The level of distinction associated with the title is similar to that of Professor and is reserved for a handful of top Research Associates of the university.
Chapter 12: The Way Forward
Authored by Professor Charles Breen and co-authored by Professor Alan Whitfield.
This chapter identifies Knysna Estuary issues and opportunities that will benefit from co-management. To provide the appropriate conditions for co-management, there needs to be a promotion of the value of ‘Sense of Place’ to both residents and visitors to the estuary. Increased strength of attachment to the estuary, and the services it provides, will lead to environmental stewardship—a key characteristic for the long-term successful management and conservation of the Knysna ecosystem.