Middelpunt Nature Reserve declared a Ramsar site
Middelpunt Nature Reserve (MNR) near Dullstroom in Mpumalanga has become South Africa’s 29th Ramsar site. Image Credit: SANews

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has welcomed the declaration of Middelpunt Nature Reserve (MNR) as South Africa’s 29th Ramsar site.

The declaration of South Africa’s 29th wetland of international importance comes less than a year since the declaration of the Berg Estuary in the Western Cape as South Africa’s 28th Ramsar Site under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

“This is a further indication of how important it is to conserve and protect our country’s wetlands. Wetland’s unique environmental features not only provide clean water through their natural filtration systems but also because they provide habitats to a variety of species, including migratory birds,” Creecy said on Wednesday.

MNR is situated along the headwaters of the Lakenvleispruit in the Olifants River basin, approximately 14 kilometres from the town of Dullstroom in Mpumalanga.

The site is situated in one of South Africa’s highest rainfall regions known as the Mpumalanga Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area (SWSA). This region consists primarily of a permanent freshwater valley bottom wetland, supported by lateral seeps and artesian springs.

“The Ramsar site is home to one of the rarest and most threatened water birds in Africa, the White-winged Flufftail. Ethiopia was thought to be the only country where the White-winged Flufftail breed and recently the first breeding record was made at Middelpunt Nature Reserve, establishing that a breeding population exists outside of Ethiopia.

“At the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) meeting held in Budapest, South Africa won an award for the conservation of the white-winged flufftail in recognition of our conservation efforts for this endangered rare bird species,” said the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

The site also contributes significantly to conserving the genetic and ecological diversity of the Steenkampsberg Mountain Grasslands and provides habitat for a number of other endangered and endemic species, including the Blue Crane, Secretary Bird, African Grass Owl, and Denham’s Bustard.

The site is one of just two in South Africa where the rare peat-borrowing crab is found. Middelpunt Wetland contains a peat layer between 1.5 and 2.6 meters deep, accumulating at a rate of 0.36 millimetres per year.

This provides an important ecosystem service to the global community by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. –SAnews.gov.za