If you wish to provide feedback on the revised environmental ask for inclusion of this EBSA into the upcoming Marine Spatial Planning process, please fill in the survey form

Data used in the analyses below (ecological condition, threat status, protection, distribution of activities, cumulative pressure from activities) are from the National Biodiversity Assessment 2018: Marine Realm Assessment. See the NBA 2018 website for access to the report.


EBSA Status Assessment and Management Recommendations

Ecological Condition, Threat Status, Current Protection and Key Features in the EBSA

Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent) | Management Interventions Needed for the EBSA

Activity Evaluation Per Zone: Zoning Feasibility | Back to the SA EBSA status and management home page



EBSA overview

Namaqua Fossil Forest is a unique site of historical importance; it comprises two species of fossilised yellowwood trees, one of which was described from the area. They have been colonized by fragile, habitat-forming scleractinian corals, and a newly described habitat-forming sponge is present in the area too. The site is within the productive Benguela Current region, but very little biological information exists for this site.


Click here for the full EBSA description


Ecological Condition, Threat Status, Current Protection and Key Features in the EBSA

Namaqua Fossil Forest comprises particularly sensitive, fragile features that are unique and need to be protected for the area to maintain the characteristics that give it its EBSA status. The criteria for which this EBSA ranks highly are: uniqueness and rarity, and vulnerability and sensitivity. There are four ecosystem types represented; most are muddy or sandy, with the Namaqua Mid Shelf Fossils ecosystem type containing the fossils themselves, and fragile scleractinian corals and habitat-forming sponges that are sensitive to damage. The Namaqua Muddy Mid Shelf Mosaic ecosystem type also likely supports fragile species. Productivity in the area is generally high owing to its location in the Benguela Current, where upwelling cells are nearby.

Namaqua Fossil Forest proportion of area in each ecological condition category.


Namaqua Fossil Forest is almost entirely in good ecological condition (100%), with a fraction that is in fair ecological condition (<1%). This is because the original location where the fossils were discovered have been protected from mining, despite the fact that they occur within a mining lease area. Consequently, the whole EBSA comprises ecosystem types that are Least Concern (100%).

 Namaqua Fossil Forest proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.


Namaqua Fossil Forest proportion of area in a Marine Protected Area (MPA).


Protection of features in MPAs has been exceptionally improved following the proclamation of the Operation Phakisa MPA network, with the EBSA area within reserves increasing from no protection to 59% protected. The new MPA covers the area most accurately known presence of fossils. However, three of the four ecosystem types represented in the EBSA are still poorly or not protected.


Threat status, protection level and ecological condition of ecosystem types in the EBSA. Other key features are also listed.


Threat Status

Protection Level

Condition (%)




Ecosystem Types

Namaqua Mid Shelf Fossils






Namaqua Muddy Mid Shelf Mosaic






Namaqua Muddy Sands






Namaqua Sandy Mid Shelf






Other Features

  • Yellowwood fossils
  • Fragile, sensitive species, e.g., habitat-forming sponges and scleractinian corals



Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • There are three pressures present in this EBSA, of which shipping and mean annual runoff reduction cover the entire EBSA extent.
  • There is only one oil and gas well in this EBSA, which has a very small footprint. Consequently, >99% of the cumulative pressure profile is split between mean annual runoff reduction and shipping.
  • The key pressure in this EBSA that most directly impacts the features for which the EBSA is described is oil and gas (exploration and production). This will need to be managed particularly well in order to protect the fragile benthic biodiversity and fossils for which this EBSA is recognised. In many ways this is already the case given that no mining is allowed where the fossils are known to occur.
  • Activities in South Africa that are not present in this EBSA include: abalone harvesting, alien invasive species, beach seining, benthic (hake) longlining, coastal development, coastal disturbance, dredge spoil dumping, gillnetting, kelp harvesting, linefishing (commercial and recreational), mariculture, midwater trawling, mining, naval dumping (ammunition), oyster harvesting, pelagic longlining, tuna pole fishing, ports and harbours, prawn trawling, recreational shore angling, shark netting, small pelagics fishing, south coast rock lobster harvesting, squid fishing, subsistence harvesting, inshore trawling, offshore trawling, wastewater discharge and west coast rock lobster harvesting; noting that some of these are coastal pressures that do not apply to offshore EBSAs.


Map of cumulative pressure from all activities in the EBSA and surrounds. Darker reds indicate higher pressure intensity.


Pressure (in arbitrary cumulative pressure units, CPUs) summed for each pressure in the EBSA, per proposed EBSA biodiversity zone, ranked left (highest) to right (lowest) by the overall relative importance of pressures in this EBSA. Note that oil and gas (exploration and production) and mean annual runoff reduction comprise <1% of the EBSA pressure profile.



Management Interventions Needed for the EBSA

Improved place-based protection of EBSA features should be pursued. In support of this, the EBSA is divided into a Biodiversity Conservation Zone and an Environmental Impact Management Zone, both comprising several areas within the EBSA. The aim of the Biodiversity Conservation Zone is to secure core areas of key biodiversity features in natural / near-natural ecological condition. Strict place-based biodiversity conservation is thus directed at securing key biodiversity features in a natural or semi-natural state, or as near to this state as possible. Activities or uses that have significant biodiversity impacts are incompatible with the management objective of this zone. If the activity is permitted, it would require alternative Biodiversity Conservation Zones or offsets to be identified. If this is not possible, it is recommended that the activity is Prohibited. Where possible and appropriate, the Biodiversity Conservation Zones should be considered for formal protection e.g., Marine Protected Areas or Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECM). The aim of the Environmental Impact Management Zone is to manage negative impacts on key biodiversity features where strict place-based measures are not practical or not essential. In this zone, the focus is management of impacts on key biodiversity features in a mixed-use area, with the objective to keep biodiversity features in at least a functional state. Activities or uses that have significant biodiversity impacts should be strictly controlled and/or regulated. Within this zone, ideally there should be no increase in the intensity of use or the extent of the footprint of activities that have significant biodiversity impacts. Where possible, biodiversity impacts should be reduced.

However, Namaqua Fossil Forest is relatively small in extent, delineated around the unique, rare and fragile underlying fossil features. Thus, the entire EBSA is a Conservation Zone, the bulk of which is covered by a new Marine Protected Area: Namaqua Fossil Forest MPA. No new pressures should be extended into this EBSA. Activities permitted within the MPA are not considered as part of the EBSA management recommendations because these are given as per the gazetted regulations.


Proposed zonation of the EBSA into Conservation (medium green) and Impact Management (light green) Zones. MPAs are overlaid in orange outlines, with the extent within the EBSA given in dark green. Click on each of the zones to view the proposed management recommendations.


Protection of features in the rest of the Conservation Zone may require additional Marine Protected Area declaration/expansion. Other effective conservation measures should also be applied via Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) to ensure that the existing activities/uses are appropriately controlled to ensure compatibility of activities with the environmental requirements for achieving the management objectives of the EBSA Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Impact Management Zones.

Based on the compatibility of sea-use activities with the management objective of the EBSA zone (see table below, from the sea-use guidelines of the National Coastal and Marine Spatial Biodiversity Plan), it is recommended for MSP that compatible activities are managed as General activities, which are those that are permitted and regulated by current general rules and legislation. Activities that are conditional are recommended to be managed as Consent activities, which are those that can continue in the zone subject to specific regulations and controls, e.g., to avoid unacceptable impacts on biodiversity features, or to avoid intensification or expansion of impact footprints of uses that are already occurring and where there are no realistic prospects of excluding these activities. Activities that are not compatible are recommended to be Prohibited, where such activities are not allowed or should not be allowed (which may be through industry-specific regulations) because they are incompatible with maintaining the biodiversity objectives of the zone. These recommendations are subject to stakeholder negotiation through the MSP process, recognizing that there will likely need to be significant compromises among sectors. It is emphasized, as noted above, that if activities that are not compatible with the respective EBSA zones are permitted, it would require alternative Biodiversity Conservation Zones or offsets to be identified. If this is not possible, it is recommended that the activity is Prohibited.


List of all sea-use activities, grouped by their Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) zones, and scored according to their compatibility with the management objective of the EBSA’s Biodiversity Conservation Zone (i.e., Critical Biodiversity Area, CBA). Activity compatibility is given as Y = yes, compatible, C = conditional or N = not compatible, with major activities that are present in the EBSA shaded in grey.



Activity Evaluation Per Zone: Zoning Feasibility

[To be updated]

Proposed zonation of the EBSA, with the cumulative intensity footprint of activities within the EBSA (sorted highest to lowest) given relative to the national footprint of those activities to illustrate feasibility of management interventions.

Namaqua Fossil Forest is the smallest of the South African EBSAs, and has been recognised as a sensitive site since discovery of the fossils. Consequently, of the few activities that are present, the proportion of their respective national footprints that lie within the EBSA is negligible. Oil and gas is recommended to continue as a Consent activity, and shipping is recommended to continue under current general rules and legislation. Thus, in all cases, the EBSA zonation has no or minimal impact on the national footprint for the listed marine activities.

There are also several activities that are largely outside the EBSA but have downstream impacts to the biodiversity within the EBSA, e.g., from mean annual runoff reduction. The impacts should be managed, but principally fall outside the direct management and zoning of the EBSA. Improved estuary management through development of appropriate freshwater flow requirements and estuarine management plans can improve the ecological condition of the surrounding marine environment in support of the biodiversity features included in this EBSA.


Research Needs

In addition to the general research needs for all EBSAs, finer-scale revision of the EBSA would be possible if additional data on the core feature were available. This may require engagement with the lease-holder, and possible co-operative research to determine the actual extent of the fossil forest.


Future Process

Portions of the EBSA have been gazetted for inclusion into the Namaqua Fossil Forest MPA, which will secure that part of the EBSA from harmful impacts such as those of mining or trawl fishing. It is unclear if this EBSA will be subject to detailed attention in the MARISMA EBSA status assessment and management options workplan.


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