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Institute for Coastal and Marine Research

 

EBSA overview  |  Delineation  |  Proposed description

 

 

EBSA overview

Tsitsikamma-Robberg is a coastal EBSA on the South African south coast. It includes Tsitsikamma MPA (South Africa’s oldest MPA), Robberg MPA, Goukamma MPA, and part of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve. It extends from the shore largely to the back of the middle shelf (-100 m isobath), with some extension onto the shallow outer shelf, and includes the extent of five estuaries, including Knysna. The protection afforded to the inshore reefs from these MPAs has contributed to a high diversity and abundance of species, including fragile, vulnerable, sensitive and slow-growing species, that in turn support many top predators. Numerous threatened species occur within this EBSA, including an Endangered endemic seahorse species and several Critically Endangered fish species, with the area also supporting important life-history stages of these threatened and other species. Several Critically Endangered and Endangered ecosystem types are also represented in the EBSA, which by implication support threatened biological communities. The area is mostly in good or fair ecological condition. However, Tsitsikamma MPA has recently been opened to recreational fishing in certain areas.

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Delineation

Open or collapse the legend as a sidebar by clicking the icon in the top left corner of the map. In the legend you can turn on/off the old/new extents of the EBSA. You can zoom in/out using the mouse or the +/- buttons on the map, and click on the features for more information.

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Proposed EBSA description

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Summary

Tsitsikamma-Robberg is a coastal EBSA on the South African south coast. It includes Tsitsikamma MPA (South Africa’s oldest MPA), Robberg MPA, Goukamma MPA, and part of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve. It extends from the shore largely to the back of the middle shelf (-100 m isobath), with some extension onto the shallow outer shelf, and includes the extent of five estuaries, including Knysna. The protection afforded to the inshore reefs from these MPAs has contributed to a high diversity and abundance of species, including fragile, vulnerable, sensitive and slow-growing species, that in turn support many top predators. Numerous threatened species occur within this EBSA, including an Endangered endemic seahorse species and several Critically Endangered fish species, with the area also supporting important life-history stages of these threatened and other species. Several Critically Endangered and Endangered ecosystem types are also represented in the EBSA, which by implication support threatened biological communities. The area is mostly in good or fair ecological condition. However, Tsitsikamma MPA has recently been opened to recreational fishing in certain areas.

 

Introduction

Tsitsikamma-Robberg is a coastal EBSA that includes the Tsitsikamma, Robberg and Goukamma MPAs, and is bordered along most of its shore length by the Garden Route National Park. The EBSA also forms part of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve. Fourteen estuaries open into this EBSA, with the Keurbooms, Groot, Sout, Knysna and Goukamma Estuaries included in the EBSA boundary. As a coastal EBSA, the depth range is relatively shallow, with most of the area covering the middle shelf. Depths are generally shallower than -100 m, although slightly deeper waters are contained in the western offshore extension. The EBSA contains important inshore reefs, vulnerable, fragile and sensitive species, and is also rich in top predators (sharks, cetaceans and marine mammals), some of which are threatened species. Inclusion of the Keurbooms and Knysna Estuaries in the EBSA means that it also contains two of only three estuaries in South Africa where the Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) is found: one of the two Endangered seahorse species globally. Given the diversity contained within the EBSA, there are many ecotourism operators (whale watching, fishing charters) and marine researchers working in this area. Notably, Tsitsikamma MPA is Africa’s oldest marine reserve, and therefore, there is a lot of research on the reef and fish communities contained within it. The EBSA had a high selection frequency in a national systematic conservation plan, and was also identified as a key site in South Africa’s protected area expansion strategy.

 

The significance of this site is largely underpinned by the inshore reefs. However, it also includes several other biodiversity features, such as critical linkages between land and sea via the five key estuaries, and important shore habitats that support critical life history stages of animals such as seals. Consequently, this site is proposed as a Type 2 EBSA (sensu Johnson et al. 2018).

 

Description of the location

EBSA Region

South-Eastern Atlantic

 

Location

The Tsitsikamma-Robberg EBSA extends along the South African south coast from the eastern boundary of the Goukamma MPA, to about 8 km west of the Robberg Peninsula, and offshore by approximately 15-18 km, largely following the -100 m isobath. The western half of the EBSA has an offshore extension, roughly opposite the Knysna Estuary. It also includes the five largest estuaries in the EBSA: Keurbooms, Groot, Sout, Knysna and Goukamma. Tsitsikamma-Robberg is entirely within South Africa’s national jurisdiction.

 

Feature description of the proposed area

The features contained within the EBSA are largely benthic, but several of the top predators are associated more with the pelagic environment. The EBSA status of this site is largely underpinned by the inshore reefs, and those in Tsitsikamma MPA have been protected since the 1964, making it the oldest marine reserve in Africa. These reefs comprise numerous fragile and sensitive species that are slow growing, including both habitat-forming reef species, as well as animals such as sparids. As a result of the large, old, no-take reserves, species abundance and diversity in this EBSA’s MPAs are much higher compared to that of the surrounding area. In turn, the area supports key populations of top predators, including Cape fur seals, sharks, seabirds and cetaceans by providing breeding and foraging habitat for them. There are several threatened species in this area, including top predators and species of commercial importance. There are also 19 ecosystem types in the EBSA, including 10 threatened ecosystem types, which by implication support biological communities that are also threatened.

 

Given the abundant marine life in the area, and the large no-take reserve that serves as a pristine reference site, there is a long history of marine research in this area, and a thriving ecotourism industry, including Blue Flag boats and beaches. The EBSA had a high selection frequency in a national systematic conservation plan indicative that this is a key area in which biodiversity targets need to be met (Sink et al., 2011, 2012, SANBI unpublished results), and it is also recognised as a focus area for protected area expansion in South Africa. The broader area, including the terrestrial side, is similarly recognised for its key ecological value. Most of the EBSA is backed by the terrestrial Garden Route National Park, and it forms part of the much larger Garden Route Biosphere Reserve that was declared by UNESCO in 2017. It also includes the Tsitsikamma-Plettenberg Bay Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, within which at least 300 species of birds have been recorded (Marnewick et al., 2015).

 

Feature condition and future outlook of the proposed area

A lot of the EBSA is in good ecological condition, but there are smaller portions that are in fair or poor condition based on a national analysis of cumulative threats to the marine realm (Sink et al., 2012, 2019). Notably, the South African government recently opened sections of the previously no-take Tsitsikamma MPA for recreational fishing.

 

References

Edgar, G.J., Stuart-Smith, R.D., Willis, T.J., Kininmonth, S., Baker, S.C., Banks, S., Barrett, N.S., Becerro, M.A., Bernard, A.T., Berkhout, J., Buxton, C.D., Campbell, S.J., Cooper, A.T., Davey, M., Edgar, S.C., Forsterra, G., Galvan, D.E., Irigoyen, A.J., Kushner, D.J., Moura, R., Parnell, P.E., Shears, N.T., Soler, G., Strain, E.M., Thomson, R.J. 2014. Global conservation outcomes depend on marine protected areas with five key features. Nature, 506: 216-20.

Huisamen, J., Kirkman, S.P., Watson, L.H., Cockcroft, V.G. and Pistorius, P.A., 2011. Recolonisation of the Robberg Peninsula (Plettenberg Bay, South Africa) by Cape fur seals. African Journal of Marine Science, 33(3): 453-461.

Johnson, D.E., Barrio Froján, C., Turner, P.J., Weaver, P., Gunn, V., Dunn, D.C., Halpin, P., Bax, N.J., Dunstan, P.K., 2018. Reviewing the EBSA process: Improving on success. Marine Policy 88, 75-85.

Lockyear, J.F., Hecht, T., Kaiser, H., Teske, P.R. 2006. The distribution and abundance of the endangered Knysna seahorse Hippocampus capensis (Pisces: Syngnathidae) in South African estuaries. African Journal of Aquatic Science, 31: 275-283.

Marnewick, M.D., Retief, E.F., Theron, N.T., Wright, D.R., Andersonm T.A. 2015. Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas of South Africa. Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa.

Sink, K.J., Attwood, C.G., Lombard, A.T., Grantham, H., Leslie, R., Samaai, T., Kerwath, S., Majiedt, P., Fairweather, T., Hutchings, L., van der Lingen, C., Atkinson, L.J., Wilkinson, S., Holness, S., Wolf, T. 2011. Spatial planning to identify focus areas for offshore biodiversity protection in South Africa. Unpublished Report. Cape Town: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Sink, K., Holness, S., Harris, L., Majiedt, P., Atkinson, L., Robinson, T., Kirkman, S., Hutchings, L., Leslie, R., Lamberth, S., Kerwath, S., von der Heyden, S., Lombard, A., Attwood, C., Branch, G., Fairweather, T., Taljaard, S., Weerts, S., Cowley, P., Awad, A., Halpern, B., Grantham, H., Wolf, T. 2012. National Biodiversity Assessment 2011: Technical Report. Volume 4: Marine and Coastal Component. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Sink, K.J., van der Bank, M.G., Majiedt, P.A., Harris, L.R., Atkinson, L., Karenyi, N., Kirkman, S. (eds) 2019 - in prep. National Biodiversity Assessment 2018 Technical Report Volume 4: Marine Realm.  South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Whittington, P.A., Crawford, R.J.M., Martin, A.P., Randall, R.M., Brown, M., Ryan, P.G., Dyer, B.M., Harrison, K.H.B., Huisamen, J., Makhado, A.B., Upfold, L., Waller, L.J., Witteveen, M. 2016. Recent Trends of the Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) in South Africa. Waterbirds, 39: 99-113.

Wood, A.D., Brouwer, S.L., Cowley, P.D., Harrison, T.D. 2000. An updated check list of the ichthyofaunal species assemblage of the Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa. Koedoe, 43: 13.

 

Status of submission

Area to be submitted to the Conference of the Parties for acknowledgement of meeting EBSA criteria once review process is finalized.

 

COP Decision

Not yet submitted.

 

Assessment of the area against CBD EBSA Criteria

C1: Uniqueness or rarity Medium
 

Justification

The uniqueness of the area is largely driven by the effect of Africa’s oldest MPA, providing a reference site for ecological research. Other rare features include presence of Endangered humpback dolphins, the tombolo at Robberg Peninsula, and some endemic species, such as the Knysna seahorse (Lockyear et al., 2006) and African Black Osytercatcher (Marnewick et al., 2015). The site also had a high selection frequency, meaning that the area is important for meeting biodiversity feature targets.

 
C2: Special importance for life-history stages of species High
 
Justification

As an IBA, the site supports many breeding bird species, e.g., White-breasted Cormorants, Caspian Terns and White-fronted Plovers, and is also a notably important breeding site (1% or more of the congregatory population threshold) for Kelp Gulls, (Endangered) Cape Cormorants, and (endemic) African Black Oystercatchers (Marnewick et al., 2015). In fact, the Keurbooms Estuary mouth is the largest breeding colony of Kelp gulls on the South African south coast, and one of the largest in the country (Whittington et al., 2015). The EBSA supports a Southern right whale breeding area, and a breeding colony of Cape fur seals at Robberg (Huisamen et al., 2011). During the latter pupping season, white sharks are known to be drawn to the area to forage on the young seals. The EBSA also includes the Keurbooms and Knysna Estuaries, which are two of only three estuaries in which Endangered, endemic Knysna seahorses live (Lockyear et al., 2006).

 

C3: Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats High
 
Justification

One of the key attributes of this EBSA is its importance for threatened species. These include (among others): Critically Endangered Seventy-four Seabream, Critically Endangered Dageraad, Endangered Knysna seahorses, Endangered humpback dolphins, Endangered White Steenbras, Endangered Cape Cormorants, Vulnerable white sharks. Near Threatened Roman Seabream and Near Threatened African Clawless Otters are also present. These species are top predators, iconic species, or commercially important species that have been overexploited outside of the MPAs in this area.

Given that ecosystem types are frequently used as a surrogate for biodiversity, South Africa places key importance on its national ecosystem type map for biodiversity planning and assessment (Sink et al., 2012). Tsitsikamma-Robberg includes two Endangered and eight Vulnerable ecosystem types (Sink et al., 2019). By implication, these habitats each support biological communities that are likely threatened as well.

 
 
C4: Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery High
 
Justification
The area contains vulnerable inshore reefs that include sensitive, fragile and vulnerable habitat-forming species. Further, some of the top predator and some sparid populations are also vulnerable to population impacts because the species are slow growing and late maturing.
 
 
C5: Biological productivity Medium
 
Justification

Time-averaged MODIS Aqua data on chlorophyll concentration (NASA Giovanni Portal: https://giovanni.gsfc.nasa.gov) shows that productivity inside Tsitiskamma-Robberg is higher compared to that of the surrounding area, particularly close to the shore. Local productivity is also higher because of the no-take MPAs supporting high abundances of biota, especially fish (Edgar et al., 2014), and thus contributing to more productive biological communities.

 
C6: Biological diversity High
 
Justification

The focus area includes representation of 19 different ecosystem types, each likely supporting their own biological communities. There is also high diversity of fish, sharks (Wood et al., 2000) in the EBSA, and it includes the Tsitsikamma-Plettenberg Bay Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, within which at least 300 species of birds have been recorded (Marnewick et al., 2015).

 
C7: Naturalness Medium
 
Justification
The EBSA focus area is predominantly in good ecological condition as per a national cumulative threat assessment of pressures on South Africa’s marine environment (Sink et al., 2012). This is partly because the area includes two MPAs, the larger of which is an old (proclaimed in 1964) no-take reserve, and the adjacent hinterland (although not part of the EBSA) mostly comprises the Garden Route National Park, and more recently (2017), the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve.

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