Se­a­horses es­ca­pe de­ath t­his ti­me round

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Nuus | News - Ya­seen Gaf­far

San­parks coor­di­na­ted a ci­ti­zen s­cien­ce pro­ject of col­lecting se­a­horses af­ter the bre­a­ching (o­pe­ning) of the Swart­vlei ri­ver mouth in Sed­ge­field fol­lo­wing last week’s rains.

The Swart­vlei es­tu­a­ry, which is al­so ho­me to the se­a­horse, was bre­a­ched at a­bout 05:00 on 27 No­vem­ber.

A few days la­ter, do­zens of lo­cal re­si­dents re­spon­ded to as­sist San­parks re­se­ar­chers with the stu­dy – which in­clu­des col­lecting de­ad se­a­horses and re­tur­ning tho­se that are a­li­ve to the es­tu­a­ry.

Just last ye­ar, San­parks staff with vo­lun­teers col­lected 900 se­a­horses, of which 450 we­re a­li­ve and re­tur­ned to their ha­bi­tat.

T­his ye­ar though, they found 11 and on­ly one sur­vi­ved, which is in­di­ca­ti­ve of cer­tain trends, ac­cor­ding to C­le­ment A­rend­se of San­parks s­cien­ti­fic ser­vi­ces.

He sta­ted that the Swart­vlei es­tu­a­ry has lar­ge po­pu­la­ti­on fluc­tu­a­ti­ons and pe­ri­o­dic mass de­at­hs of se­a­horses.

“If we find no se­a­horses it could tell us that the de­lay in the drop­ping of wa­ter le­vel as­sis­ted the se­a­horses in ha­ving e­nough ti­me to es­ca­pe, or per­haps the po­pu­la­ti­on is a bit lo­wer than last ye­ar,” said A­rend­se, who ex­plai­ned that w­hen the wa­ter le­vel drops the se­a­horses “sud­den­ly get ex­po­sed” and hang on­to the grass and ve­ge­ta­ti­on – which so­meti­mes re­sults in de­ath. “We do ve­ge­ta­ti­on stu­dies as well and t­his will al­so gi­ve us in­for­ma­ti­on on the se­a­horses,” he said.

Vo­lun­teers se­ar­ched for se­a­horses al­ong as­sig­ned secti­ons of the Swart­vlei banks and we­re re­que­sted to col­lect per­mits for the work and com­ple­te in­for­ma­ti­on cards to be pla­ced with any de­ad se­a­horses found at their as­sig­ned secti­on.

“We are trying to find out why the po­pu­la­ti­ons fluc­tu­a­te and how se­a­horses re­spond to bre­a­ching e­vents. The in­for­ma­ti­on gat­he­red will al­so help de­ter­mi­ne if a­re­as that f­lood w­hen the mouth is clo­sed are u­sed by se­a­horses as ha­bi­tat.

“Ci­ti­zen s­cien­tis­ts the­re­fo­re play a key ro­le in hel­ping to re­du­ce mor­ta­li­ty of se­a­horses in the Swart­vlei es­tu­a­ry and pro­vi­de in­va­lu­a­ble in­for­ma­ti­on on their dis­tri­bu­ti­on and ha­bi­tat, ai­ding ma­na­ge­ment of t­his i­co­nic spe­cies.”

Pho­tos: Ya­seen Gaf­far

Do­zens of lo­cal re­si­dents with San­parks ran­gers and staff.

San­parks of­fi­ci­als con­duct a de­mon­stra­ti­on of me­a­su­ring wa­ter le­vels af­ter bre­a­ching the ri­ver mouth.

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