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WESSA Green Coast

WESSA Green Coast Award

We’re Officially in!

By Monica Maroun

A bit about WESSA

The Wildlife Society of South Africa (known as WESSA) is a South African environmental organisation which aims to initiate and support high impact environmental and conservation projects to promote participation in caring for the Earth. For over 90 years they have proactively engaged with the challenges and opportunities presented by our country’s unique natural heritage and the social and economic systems that depend on it.

WESSA is a membership organisation activating a wide range of local conservation initiatives through their membership network of branches and Friends groups.

WESSA is an integral part of the international environmental community: In addition to being the appointed operator in South Africa for five FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) programmes, they are a founder member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and, as a UNESCO partner, are supporting education for sustainable development across the southern African region.

WESSA has become a leading implementer of environmental initiatives Their work includes:

Tourism Green Coast

Developing youth tourism entrepreneurs along South Africa’s Wild Coast
South Africa’s Wild Coast

The Tourism Green Coast project was started in 2016 and focussed on a 300km stretch of coastline on South Africa’s Wild Coast. 

This project targeted 20 sensitive coastal sites that being utilized for low impact tourism and which include local community members into the tourism operations in the region. Through a partnership with the National Department of Tourism, WESSA placed over 100 previously disadvantaged youth from the region with 30 private tourism operators for a 2-year job placed mentorship. Each of the youth learners also received accredited training in Tourism Guiding and a range of additional entrepreneurship and professional development short courses. The intention of the Tourism Green Coast project was to “Train for Jobs” while supporting sustainable destination development along the Wild Coast. The Green Stewards recently graduated. The graduation for the 118 Green Stewards took place over four days at the end of July 2020.

Kei Mouth was well represented with 10 stewards being hosted by Kei Mouth Guesthouse, Kei Mouth Golf Course, Neptune’s Cove and Kei Mouth Revival.

  • The Green Coast Beach Stewards were required to:
    • Assist their tourism hosts with daily operations
    • Develop and uphold Green Key eco-label standards on site
    • Help establish the Green Coast eco-label at a nearby beach and conduct monitoring and data collection
    • Introduce the Eco-Schools programme at a nearby school, to increase coastal awareness and encourage environmental learning

Green Coast Award

The WESSA Green Coast award aims to actively promote “wild” beaches along our coastline. These beaches appeal to a specific sector of the tourism market who are looking for experiences in adventure, outdoor living and nature tourism along our coastline.

The Green Coast award has been developed to recognise those rural coastal sites which are managed according to standardised criteria and able to maintain a consistent improvement of conditions at the site.

Green Coast sites aim to protect one of three main coastal themes namely; sensitive habitats, species and cultural heritage. A Green Coast site is not just another stretch of protected coastline but rather a platform for collaboration, innovation and local public participation. 

The Green Coast award is an excellent opportunity for local citizens to act and become involved in efforts to improve and protect our incredible coastline. The objectives of Green Coast are two-fold. Firstly, it aims to provide a system for sustainable management of sensitive coastal spaces and secondly, to engage local citizens to become involved in management of these unique sites.

The award has been developed in a way that will allow for adequate monitoring and protection of the site, whilst also allowing for the development of low impact coastal tourism, should there be potential for this. The vision for the Green Coast award process is that a local organisation/s will partner with the local municipality in helping to apply for and sustain the award which will be made on an annual basis.

The Green Coast criteria include aspects of basic ecological monitoring which allow for the setup of exciting new citizen science initiatives. The Green Coast sites with their unique habitat, species and cultural heritage also provide ideal locations for outdoor learning and exemplary environmental education activities.

The Green Stewards had a number of requirements to meet during their two year mentorship programme, with one being to help establish the site where they were placed as a Green Coast stie. The Kei Mouth Stewards began this work and their groundwork has been invaluable in assisting Kei Mouth with applying for the Green Coast Award.

Kei Mouth Green Coast Award Application

To become a Green Coast Award site, Kei Mouth, and all sites had to go through and initial assessment phase where specified criteria needed to be met.

The application process included a number of steps, these being:

  1. Complete an application form
  2. Select a main site theme- either Habitat, species or Cultural Heritage
    • Kei Mouth chose to include two themes; Habitat and Species
    • The habitat to be monitored is the very unique mudstone shore near to the Great Kei River Mouth
    • The species to be monitored is the mangrove population on the southern bank of the Great Kei River
  3. We had to investigate and demarcate all potential places for waste discharge
  4. gathering information and creating a list of all tourism activities and accommodation providers in Kei Mouth
  5. Include a map of the site showing the above
  6. Create and submit a monitoring plan for the chosen themes
  7. With the assistance of WESSA- have a support letter signed by the municipality
Mudstone Shore monitoring sites

Kei Mouth Revival Group and Chrysalis Nature College have spear-headed the Kei mouth application.

Once all of the above was completed and the application submitted a site visit was conducted to assess the site. Thereafter our application went to the national jury to make the final decision.

We are very proud to announce that Kei Mouth has been awarded Green Coast Award status.

What next?

We will now have signage and a flag put up to identify Kei Mouth as a Green Coast Award site. There will be an official launch of Kei Mouth and four other Green Coast Award sites. We will have to re-apply for this status next year.

In order to keep our status we are required to meet the initial requirements and:

  • Monitor the site according to our monitoring plan- report on the data collected and monitoring conducted
  • Organise at least one beach clean-up and two environmental education programmes
  • Create an indigenous and invasive species list

The work has begun

Our monitoring plan states that we will conduct our monitoring surveys four times a year during the spring low tides of the solstices and the equinoxes. As September is an equinox month, we conducted our first official survey on the 16th and 17th of September 2020.

Collecting field data
Field Research & Monitoring Student, Danike Meyer collecting data
Dr Robertson-Andersson

In the same week on the 19th of September, opportunity presented itself once again. Saturday 19 September was international Coastal Cleanup day. We decided that it was a perfect opportunity to kickstart our Beach cleanups. We invited all Kei Mouth residents and extended a special invite to the children of iKwili Primary School. Our event was more successful than we could have imagined, with over 50 primary school children attending and another 20 Kei Mouth residents.

Dr Robertson-Andersson explaining about the plastic problem
Dr Robertson-Andersson explaining about the Plastic problem

 Are we destroying it?

By Nina Tombers Marine Conservation and Ecology student

In Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times» the little tramp works in a factory at a conveyor belt. As he struggles to keep up with the belt, he starts to make mistakes which has its effects further down the line. It ends in a big chaos and the whole machinery collapses. So, if only at one place of a conveyor belt something goes wrong it can jeopardize the whole system.

And it is not by chance that the ocean’s currents are also called the global ocean conveyor belt. Like a factory conveyor belt, we need it for our whole earth’s system, not only the ocean but also the climate, to work properly.

What is the global ocean conveyor belt?

The water in our oceans is not just still-standing like a lake might be, there is always movement which is caused by the different currents that formed in the oceans. These currents don’t just exist each for themselves but create one big belt moving water around the whole world and through the different oceans – the global ocean conveyor belt (Figure 1). The water does not only move two-dimensionally but three-dimensionally, at some places water will rise up while at others water will sink down to the bottom of the ocean. Therefore, the water in our oceans will keep moving around the world and exchange surface water with new nutrient rich bottom water.[1]

Warm water masses in the Atlantic move northward where they cool down and sink to the bottom and the ocean conveyor belt begins.

What is the driving force behind the conveyor belt?

In one word: the thermohaline circulation. The word thermohaline is a combination of the two ancient Greek words thermos which means warm and háls meaning salt. Ocean water’s salinity, the amount of minerals dissolved in the water, and the water’s temperature directly affect its density [2]. The more salt there is in the water, the heavier it gets and the warmer it is the less dense it gets as it expands. As we know, less dense material flows on top of denser one, this is also true for water masses in the ocean. So, if water is transported into the pole region for example in the North Atlantic it will cool down because of the cold temperatures in the Arctic. Furthermore, if you ever have had the chance to lick a piece of ice from an iceberg you will have noticed that it consists of freshwater even if it formed out of seawater. This is because when ice is created the salt does not freeze and stays behind in the water, which means that the water in areas where ice is formed contains more salt than usually. Both these processes lead to a higher density of the water therefore, the water will sink down. While the sinking water on top is replaced by water moving into its place on the surface, the water in the deep will move southwards and a thermohaline current starts. It then crosses the Atlantic moving south where it splits into two while moving around Antarctica, one going up again into the Indian Ocean while the other moves up into the Pacific Ocean. Both warm up while getting closer to the equator which makes them come up to the surface again. The water at the surface will once more move south- and westward and then back up to the North Atlantic again, where the whole cycle starts again. The time till the same water will end up at the same place again is estimated to be 1,000 years.

How does it influence our climate?

In South Africa we can perfectly experience the impact ocean currents can have on the climate because it lays between the cold Benguela current on the west coast and the warm Agulhas current on the east coast. Since water takes a lot longer to heat up or cool down, as a consequence of its higher heat capacity, than air, warm water can act as a heat store when air temperatures go down in winter. This is the reason why winters along the east coast of South Africa are a lot more temperate. The air can get energy in form of heat from the water and doesn’t cool down as much.

Total rainfall (mm) for period July 2011 to June 2012

Furthermore, the warmer the air is the more moisture it can hold which then again leads to more clouds forming so more rain can fall. This means that the west coast with its cold current is getting less rain than the east coast with the warm Agulhas current, which can be seen in a map of rain distribution in South Africa (Figure 2).

At the west coast we have the opposite situation. The cold water of the Benguela current cools down the air and therefore there is almost no moisture and that leads to a dry climate, which explains the Namib desert.

So, water currents firstly are able to change air temperature drastically and secondly have a huge influence on how moist the air is which therefore leads to how much rain a place will get. The warm and cool currents of the conveyor belt can have exactly the same influence on the climate elsewhere as we can experience the currents here in South Africa.

One of the most famous examples is probably how the Gulfstream provides western Europe with warmer climate. If you compare for example the climate of Great Britain and Canada, they are on the same latitude and should experience a similar climate but because of the warm water coming from the equator Great Britain has the much warmer climate

The gulf Stream carries warm water to the east coast of the USA and Canada and on to Western Europe

Does climate change put the global ocean conveyor belt in danger?

Climate change influences many different parts and processes on our globe, and it quite possibly will also have an effect on the ocean conveyor belt. With climate change there will be more rain over the North Atlantic, more meltwater from melting glaciers and sea ice will be added to the ocean and there will be less sea ice being formed. All of this leads to more freshwater and hence less sinking of cold and salty water. This then could lead to a slowdown or even stop of the ocean conveyor belt. And as we know western Europe for example depends on the warm water of the ocean currents for their climate, so it would quite possibly mean a radical change in temperature.[1] So, the global ocean conveyor belt as a whole system is crucial to keep the world’s climate in check, but with climate change and the shrinking ice masses we are getting closer and closer to destroy one of the driving forces. And as we seen in “Modern Times” by Charlie Chaplin, we know that even a small error in such a big system can bring it to the downfall. So, climate change is not only about a world warming up but could really mean the collapse of the ocean conveyor belt and possibly a new ice age for Europe.

Watch this short video on How Ocean Current Work


[1] https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/videos/147-the-ocean-conveyor-belt [2]https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_currents/05conveyor2.html [3]htps://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermohalin#cite_note-rahmstorf-1 [4]https://scijinks.gov/gulf-stream/ [5]https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_currents/05conveyor3.html#:~:text=The%20global%20conveyor%20belt%20is%20a%20strong%2C%20but%20easily%20disrupted%20process.&text=If%20global%20warming%20results%20in,sinking%20of%20cold%2C%20salty%20water.

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