Your home lights could be endangering wetland’s wildlife

Feb 1, 2023 | Uncategorized

Having a house on the edge of a river or wetland? Well, what a joy to be surrounded by all that nature has to offer in these rich wildlife patches. 

But whether you already own a house beside a water body, or whether you’re considering building one in the Kogelberg Biosphere, you need to understand how your presence is impacting on the wetland environment, and what you can do to minimise your footprint.

For example, did you know that just by having a powerful light on around your house, you could be changing the habits of entire populations of aquatic and bird species living around you, and sending them off into harm’s way?

Many homes and dwellings in the Kogelberg Biosphere are situated beside Cape Lowland Freshwater Wetlands.

But these are considered to be Critically Endangered by CapeNature, given the ongoing development taking place in these wetlands.

What’s more, they’re also home to an array of special critters and amphibians, including the Critically Endangered Micro Frog and an array of other endemic frog species such as the Clicking Stream Frog, Cape River Frog and Southern Dainty Frog.

That’s why the Kogelberg Biosphere, working with the Overstrand Municipality, has compiled a series of tips for those living beside these water bodies – to encourage greater awareness of our wetland wildlife, and how to look after them.

The challenge for our wildlife stems from our human activities – such as putting our artificial lights on. These can disrupt the activity of nocturnal species, such as frogs and toads, interfere with their reproduction, and thereby reduce populations. Birds that hunt at night, such as owls, or others that migrate in the dark, can also be thrown off course by artificial lights, which they confuse for moonlight and starlight – their navigation tools.

In the newly published book, ‘Sustainable Living in the Kogelberg Biosphere and Overstrand Municipal Villages’, those living on the edge of water bodies are encouraged to:

 

  • Reduce light pollution by switching off lights not in use – especially outside lights
  • Make use of downward sloping louvres of so-called ‘eyelids’ to reduce the glare from the lights
  • Keep exterior lights and their wattage to the minimum.

According to Corlie Hugo, Coordinator of the Kogelberg Biosphere, we’re fortunate to live in an area with so many important wetlands.

“Many of our wetlands are considered to be extremely important nationally, and must be protected. And it’s up to us, living in the biosphere, to do our bit.”

The most notable Freshwater Ecosystem Priority (FEPA) wetlands of the Kogelberg Biosphere area include channeled valley-bottom wetland systems at the base of the mountains between Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay and Rooi-Els, and those adjacent and feeding into the Palmiet and Bot River estuaries respectively.

In fact, the Bot-Kleinmond Estuarine System is ranked among the top 10 most important estuaries in South Africa. It has been designated as a RAMSAR site (a wetland of international importance, as per the Ramsar Convention of 1971. These offer important habitat for waterfowl).

 

Do the right thing – for wetlands

CapeNature’s Freshwater Ecologist Jeanne Gouws says, “Many of the wetlands in the Kogelberg Biosphere are threatened in some way, most often from urban development and other land use practices. It is especially the wetlands in the lower lying areas that are most impacted, either being endangered or critically endangered.”

Corlie adds, “The world is looking at restoration as a solution to many of our challenges facing our natural world. We heed this call in our biosphere, and we’re undertaking actions to restore our wetlands, removing invasive alien plants and running environmental education programmes for younger members of our biosphere community. But aside from the Biosphere, the individuals living here have so much to contribute, just by doing the right thing for wetlands.”

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