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

Orange Cone is underpinned by land-sea connectivity through the Orange River. Huge volumes of sediment and freshwater are exported offshore, driving muddy ecosystem and associated communities, with conditions supporting important life-history stages of fish, as well as threatened top predators and ecosystems. The estuary supports a rich diversity and is a Ramsar site and Important Bird and Biodiversity Area for birds.

Click here for the full EBSA description

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

Orange Cone is underpinned by a critical connection between land and sea via the Orange River that needs to be protected for the area to maintain the features and processes that give it its EBSA status. The criteria for which this EBSA ranks highly are: uniqueness and rarity, importance for life history stages, and importance for threatened species and habitats. There are 16 ecosystem types represented, most of which are muddy or sandy, and 10 of which are threatened. This area, including the estuary, is important for supporting key life-history stages of fish, and is also an important site for threatened fish, sharks and birds. In fact, the estuary area is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and a Ramsar Site. Kelp forests also contribute to the nursery function of the EBSA and are sensitive to disturbance.

 

Orange Cone proportion of area in each ecological condition category.

 

Orange Cone is mostly in good ecological condition (53%), with notable portion that is fair (36%), and a smaller area that is in poor ecological condition (11%) generally along the shore. Consequently, half of the EBSA (50%) is Least Concern. However, the inshore areas and full offshore extent of the South African portion of the EBSA are threatened, mostly comprising Endangered (39%) and Vulnerable (10%) ecosystem types, with Critically Endangered (1%) and Near Threatened (<1%) types as well.

 

 Orange Cone proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.

 

Orange Cone proportion of area in a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

 

The patterns in ecological condition and ecosystem threat status between the two countries are explained clearly by the stark contrast in protection and management between the two countries. On the Namibian side, there is land-sea protection, with the adjacent land being a protected area, and the coastal area falling within a reserve offering partial protection. In South Africa, there is no protection within the EBSA; this is one of only two EBSAs in South Africa where this is the case. Importantly, the South African portion of Orange Cone includes three high-risk ecosystem types, assessed as Endangered and not protected that are priorities for protection. Note that adjacent to the EBSA, there are also two terrestrial ecosystem types that are high risk, calling for land-sea coastal protection in this area if these ecosystem types and associated biodiversity are to be protected into the future. This cluster of five high-risk types comprises more than a third of the 13 high-risk coastal (terrestrial, estuarine and marine) ecosystem types in South Africa, as assessed in the National Biodiversity Assessment 2018.

 

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

Feature

Threat Status

Protection Level

Condition (%)

Good

Fair

Poor

Ecosystem Types

Namaqua Estuarine Shore

LC

MP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Namaqua Inner Shelf

LC

MP

97.0

0.0

3.0

Namaqua Inshore

VU

WP

45.6

0.0

54.4

Namaqua Intermediate Sandy Beach

CR

WP

9.5

0.0

90.5

Namaqua Reflective Sandy Beach

CR

WP

0.0

0.0

100.0

Cool Temperate Large Fluvially Dominated Estuary

EN

NP

95.4

1.8

2.8

Namaqua Exposed Rocky Shore

VU

MP

0.4

15.6

84.0

Namaqua Kelp Forest

VU

MP

0.1

33.8

66.1

Namaqua Mixed Shore

VU

MP

3.9

10.0

86.2

Namaqua Sandy Mid Shelf

LC

PP

99.8

0.2

0.0

Orange Cone Inner Shelf Mud Reef Mosaic

EN

NP

0.0

77.9

22.1

Orange Cone Muddy Mid Shelf

EN

NP

0.5

98.7

0.8

Southern Benguela Dissipative Intermediate Sandy Shore

LC

WP

3.1

86.0

10.8

Southern Benguela Dissipative Sandy Shore

LC

WP

1.6

97.1

1.3

Southern Benguela Intermediate Sandy Shore

NT

PP

2.5

91.4

6.1

Southern Benguela Reflective Sandy Shore

EN

MP

0.0

95.4

4.6

Other Features

  • Important Bird and Biodiversity Area
  • Ramsar site
  • Threatened fish (such as kob), sharks (such as Rostroraja albai and Mustelus mustelus) and birds (e.g., Damara Terns, Ludwig’s bustard, and breeding Cape Cormorants)

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The proposed zonation and recommended management in transboundary EBSAs is split at the national borders, with each country responsible for EBSA management in their own jurisdiction only. The sections below present the proposed management of South Africa's portion of this EBSA.

 

Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • In the South African portion of the EBSA, the key pressures include: mean annual runoff reduction, shipping, mining (prospecting and mining), alien invasive species, oil and gas (exploration), and subsistence harvesting.
  • Mining (prospecting and mining), and activities upstream of the estuary (to limit impacts of flow reduction caused by, e.g., damming and abstraction), will need to be managed particularly well in order to protect the estuarine habitat for associated birds, and offshore ecosystem types, nursery habitats, and fish assemblages for which this EBSA is recognised.
  • Note that oil and gas (exploration) and subsistence harvesting each comprise only 1% of the EBSA pressure profile.


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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 subsistence harvesting each comprise <1% of the EBSA pressure profile.

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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.

As far as possible, the Biodiversity Conservation Zone was designed deliberately to avoid conflicts with existing activities. There are no MPAs in Orange Cone. However, there is a recently proclaimed Nature Reserve on the South African side of the Orange River mouth that is mostly within the EBSA, with intentions to proclaim an adjacent MPA in and around the mouth of the estuary that approximately follows the Ramsar boundary (but this is still to be determined). The activities permitted within the Nature Reserve are 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 each 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) and Environmental Impact Management Zone (i.e., Ecological Support Area, ESA). 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.

There are also some pressures on biodiversity features within the EBSA that originate from activities outside of these EBSA or beyond the jurisdiction of MSP. In support of maintaining the ecological integrity of and benefits delivered by the key biodiversity features, these other activities need to be appropriately managed by complementary initiatives.

 

Recommendations for other activities beyond the jurisdiction of MSP management to support securing key biodiversity features within the EBSA.

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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.

Nearly a fifth of the country’s marine mining footprint is in the EBSA, most of which is in the Impact Management Zone. Existing mining is recommended to continue in both EBSA zones as a Consent activity with relevant regulations and management. Subsistence harvesting occurs along the shores of the EBSA at a relatively low intensity, exclusively in the Impact Management Zone and is recommended to continue as a Consent activity. Oil and gas (exploration and production) occur in the EBSA in the Conservation Zone, where it is similarly recommended to continue as a Consent activity. 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 and should ideally be dealt with in complementary integrated coastal zone management in support of the EBSA. For example, investment in eradicating the alien invasive species could aid in improving the ecological condition of rocky and mixed shores, improving benefits for subsistence and recreational harvesting; and rehabilitation of degraded dunes and formalising access points could support improved habitat for nesting shorebirds, and enhanced benefits for coastal protection during storm surges. Similarly, 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 turn, improving the ecological condition of the adjacent marine environment. Rehabilitation of related estuarine habitats is also recommended as a priority. These can partly be addressed in the management plan of the newly proclaimed Nature Reserve at the Orange River mouth.

 

Research Needs

There are no specific research needs for this EBSA in addition to those for all EBSAs. However, it is noted that much more baseline research and ongoing monitoring is needed to ensure that the key features of the EBSA are well managed. Other research into the fluvial fan and plume is also recommended to better understand land-sea connectivity processes, and the effect that freshwater flow reduction could have on marine systems.

 

Future Process

It is likely that this EBSA will be the focus for status assessment and detailed transboundary management planning. 

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