Wind: 20.92 km/h
The beautiful Knysna Estuary is the most important estuary in South Africa in terms of conservation. Home to 42% of all South Africa’s estuarine species, visitors and nature lovers will take pleasure in this diversity hotspot. The estuary is also home to South Africa’s only endemic seahorse species - and the symbol of the Knysna Basin Project - the Knysna seahorse. As such, the estuary is a protected area and part of the Garden Route National Park.
The Knysna Basin Project is a scientifically focused Not for Profit organization based in Knysna. The overarching aim of the Knysna Basin Project is to ensure the future conservation of the Knysna Estuary and the surrounding catchments. We believe that this aim can only be achieved through ongoing scientific research and the education of those that depend on the estuary and surrounding environment. As an organization, we work closely with management authorities and local groups to ensure the implementation of tangible management and conservation actions.
We welcome visitors to the Knysna estuary and encourage users to play a part in its conservation. Please adhere to all fishing and bait collection regulations within the estuary. A copy of our Fishing and Boating Regulations Flyer is available upon purchase of a fishing permit at the Knysna Post Office. Additional visitor and user information is available at the SANParks Offices at Thesen Island Harbour.
Knysna Basin Project has published a revised and expanded second edition of its field guide – A Field Guide to the Shores of the Knysna Estuary – the common creatures, seaweeds and saltmarsh plants. The Guide aims to help the community learn about and appreciate the Estuary and to raise funds for the Project. The field guide is available for purchase at the Leisure Isle library, and Nadine’s Corner on Leisure Isle.
For more information on the Knysna Basin Project and the research currently being conducted within the estuary, please visit our website at www.knysnabasinproject.co.za and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/knysnabasinproject.
When Louw Claassens talks about Knysna seahorses, there is a fire in her eyes. Her love affair with this iconic estuarine species (Hippocampus capensis) began after a chance meeting during a field trip with well known local Professor Brian Allanson from the Knysna Basin Project. At the time, she was studying for a Masters degree in Aquatic Health at the University of Johannesburg. The experience so inspired her that after graduating, she moved to Knysna, joined the Knysna Basin Project, shifted her field of study and made researching the status and distribution of the Knysna Estuary's most celebrated aquatic resident her primary mission.
Knysna seahorses are incredibly rare. They have the smallest geographical range of any seahorse and can be found in only three estuaries: Knysna, Swartvlei and Keurbooms. They are unique in that they are the only known true estuarine seahorse species in the world. They are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered which makes the study and protection of the species critical. The study of seahorses is also extremely valuable because they serve as an indicator species, due to the fact that they are extremely sensitive to the adverse changes in the natural environment. A flourishing Knysna seahorse population could therefore, be indicative of a healthy estuarine system, or vice versa.
Collecting the data is essential. Few people are aware of the importance of the health of the Knysna Estuary. It is the most significant in South Africa in terms of species biodiversity and the protection of fauna and flora in the Knysna Estuary alone would ensure that 42% of South Africa’s estuarine biodiversity is conserved.
Under the banner of the Knysna Basin Project, a non-profit organisation that for nearly twenty years has been involved in monitoring the health of the Knysna Estuary and the impact of human development on this estuarine system, the Knysna Seahorse Status (KySS) project was launched in 2014 and forms part of Claassens PhD study through Rhodes University.
In order to establish the distribution and abundance of the species, researchers need to survey the populations across various habitats and see what, if any, patterns emerge. “Very quickly we found a consistent pattern of considerably higher population densities of the Knysna seahorse within the artificial (gabion) structures of the Thesen Island Marina, as a opposed to their natural habitat, such as eel grass beds” says Claassens.
The project researchers then went on to do 'habitat choice' experiments, where they placed two cages in the marina, one containing the artificial habitat and one containing the natural vegetation. What they found, was that the seahorses almost always preferred the artificial structures when given a choice. There are several theories as to why the Knysna seahorse seeks refuge in the canals of Thesen Island and this all forms part of the study. Much remains unknown.
“The question we have to ask now is “are they thriving here, or are they merely surviving?” Claassens aims to continue her quest once she has completed her PhD this year and if she receives adequate funding she will go on to do her Post Doctorate in order to further study this remarkable species. She hopes that her research can one day also be used for the international conservation of seahorses. Sadly, seahorse populations are threatened in many parts of the world. This is due to habitat destruction, bad fishing practises, and the exploitation for use in traditional medicines.
Claassens believes a lot more needs to be done to manage the species and the estuary as a whole and in order for research and conservation efforts to be successful, public awareness is key and Claassens is passionate about educating the public. The Knysna Estuary needs inspired custodians.
One thing is for certain - Knysna gained a genuine asset the day Louw Claassens decided to make the study of the Knysna seahorse and the estuarine system within which it finds sanctuary, her life's mission!
There have been a great line up of new events at this year's Oyster Festival, but none perhaps quite as inspiring (and environmentally significant) as the Artful Waste Challenge which took place on Wednesday, July 6. On certainly one of the coldest days of the winter, a morning coupled with sporadic rain and icy winds, a total of six teams along with a unit of SANparks rangers, braved the elements to take part in an event that the Knysna Basin Project – the organisers of the event - hope will inspire change. A wave of change!
“The aim of this event, says organiser Louw Claassens, a scientist working for the Knysna Basin Project, “was to raise awareness surrounding the issues of waste in Knysna.” The seriousness of which became exceedingly apparent to all those taking place in a clean-up event earlier in the year., After scouring the southern banks of Thesen Island (a relatively small area of the estuary) at low tide for less than an hour, a total of 16 bags of trash were collected,80% of which, was plastic.
The six teams (which included two visiting teams from Cape Town) then headed to the SANparks tent at the festival grounds where teams had to make something artistic out of the trash collected. All the artworks made sent a clear message about what our trash is doing to our oceans. It is a global problem, but the solution needs to start at a grass- roots, local level, which is the message the Knysna Basin Project is attempting to relay. The Knysna Estuary, our town's most precious aquatic asset, unites with the mighty Indian Ocean in daily tidal dance... often dumping plastic that has made its way into this estuarine system. An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans each year – a cause for great concern.
Looking after our lagoon is a collective responsibility. Each and every one of us needs to say NO to single use plastic items and the plastic that we do use must be RECYCLED!!
This event was generously supported by several local businesses: Pick n Pay, Ocean Odyssey Whale Watching and Eco Trips, Knysna Elephant Park and Metelerkamps in association with WESSA Knysna, Sanparks and Knysna Municipality and our Judge, local artist Jan Andre Raats.
For more information: www.knysnabasinproject.co.za
Several fauna species have become iconic symbols for Knysna. Take the Knysna Loerie for example. This bird reached star status by merely being strikingly beautiful. The Knysna Loerie can often be seen showing off its pretty plumage across many parts of Knysna, particularly in our lush indigenous forests.
When you gaze across the expanse of the Knysna Estuary, its beauty has the ability to simply take your breath away. This beauty lures thousands of visitors to its shore year after year.
When, however, one delves into the life-forms sustained by this estuarine system the true beauty of the estuary can really be appreciated. The intricate web of fauna and flora found here is nothing short of remarkable, which is why it is considered the most significant estuary in terms of biodiversity in the country.
A tour to the Knysna Basin Project during the Knysna Arts Festival revealed to visitors just some of the many life forms that can be found here. The tour provided a fascinating look into the various projects implemented by the researchers and ‘citizen scientists’ of the Knysna Basin Project. A project that is a scientifically based non-profit organisation focused on continued research of the Knysna Basin and aims to create and stimulate public and learner awareness and appreciation of the estuary.
During the tour, Frances Smith gave an extremely interesting talk about certain characteristics of the species that they had collected on the shoreline that morning. We had the opportunity to view these and learn why these species are so well adapted to survive within their environment.
We examined isopods, amphipods, hermit crabs, necklace shells, limpets, nudibrands, spiny chitons, tick snails, shaggy sea hares, plum anemones and so much more. Much of the life that exists in the estuary is rather small and remains largely unseen by the naked eye. Having the opportunity to peer through a microscope, the complexity found within nature was suddenly revealed to us.
We joined Prof Brian Allanson, renowned local Professor of Zoology for an interesting discussion surrounding water monitoring and sampling. Surrounded by glass beakers, test tubes and an arsenal of chemical compounds Prof Allanson gave us insight into how they go about monitoring the water quality of the estuary.
He explained that they test the salinity, pH levels, levels of phosphorous and nitrogen within the system. The health of water can easily be compromised when certain levels are too high. The professor further said that they keep a close watch on these levels at all times. We also learned of how the depth of the estuary has fluctuated over the years since it was first surveyed in the 1800’s and how they are trying to determine the causes for this.
This passionate group of people of the Knysna Basin Project were truly inspiring and once again brought home the fact that everything in the natural world is so connected and how the delicate balance of the system can so easily be disrupted.
Visit the Knysna Basin Project website for more information: www.knysnabasinproject.co.za