|Location||South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal|
|Central coordinates||29o 25.00' East 30o 18.00' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A4i|
|Altitude||1,224 - 1,411m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information See Box for key species. Franklin vlei has the largest known (i.e. properly counted/estimated) population of Sarothrura ayresi in South Africa. The species inhabits the Carex-dominated areas and the taller vegetation at Vogelvlei. The principal interest at Llewellyn is a breeding pair of Grus carunculatus. The vegetation is too short and sparse over most of the area to support many rallids, although the listed wetland species do occur in pockets of suitable cover, while Crex crex occurs in wet grassland at the edge of the wetland, especially in years when patches of moist mixed grassland are allowed to develop without disturbance.
Site description Franklin vlei is a large, complex wetland that has several areas of significance. The first of these is Vogelvlei, which is comparatively undisturbed. It is not burned annually, and normally has moderate grazing pressure. The dominant vegetation in the most deeply flooded areas is extensive beds of Typha and Phragmites, while permanently shallowly flooded to saturated ground is dominated by large sedges, principally Carex, Cyperus and Schoenoplectus.The second significant area is the causeway that crosses a wet zone of the vlei near Franklin village. The area adjacent to the causeway is permanently flooded and contains very large beds of Typha, large stands of Phragmites (most commonly along the river channels), much floating and emergent grass (principally Leersia), many patches of open water which are often secluded, areas of tall flooded sedges Cyperus, and a mixture of sedges (especially Eleocharis) and reeds.The Llewellyn area is an arm of the main Franklin vlei and has similar vegetation to most other areas of the main wetland. Rheboksfontein has extensive beds of almost monospecific Carex, stands of Phragmites and Typha in its more deeply flooded areas, excellent mixed sedges including Cyperus, Schoenoplectus and Eleocharis, and, in wet areas, smaller sedges such as Pycreus, Kyllinga and Cyperus together with wet grassland. Flitwick Grange has a large central area of Carex with mixed sedge-beds of Cyperus, Eleocharis and Schoenoplectus, and fringing mixed tussocky sedges, Juncus and grasses. Holwell is a much-degraded wetland dominated by grass and short sedge species including Cyperus, Eleocharis, Pycreus, Fuirena and Schoenoplectus, which has been partially drained by the digging of a furrow along its centre. It is grazed and quite frequently burned. The Ruswarp area is predominantly moist grassland, with sedge meadow in wetter depressions, along the Mzintlava river. It is heavily grazed by sheep over much of its area, frequently burned, and has some poplar plantations near the river. Dominant sedges include Pycreus, Fuirena, Eleocharis, Cyperus and Schoenoplectus. Juncus and Cyperus fringe the river channel in many places. Hebron is largely protected and has excellent beds of Carex, stands of Typha and Phragmites along stream channels, and areas of mixed sedges and wet grassland.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi||winter||1998||40-75 individuals||-||A1, A4i||Endangered|
|Corncrake Crex crex||winter||-||present [units unknown]||-||A1||Least Concern|
|Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus||resident||-||1 breeding pairs||-||A1||Vulnerable|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Artificial landscapes (terrestrial)||14%|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||100%|
Other biodiversity None known to BirdLife International.
Management considerations This is one of the few sites in the world where Sarothrura ayresi is known to occur annually, and to be present throughout the summer, arriving in November and departing in March. The vlei is mostly under private ownership. For many years the site has been subjected to virtually uncontrolled modification, damage and mismanagement, with the self-interested actions of individual land-users taking priority over considerations of the impact such actions have on the wetland system and on other land-users.Factors currently affecting Franklin vlei adversely include the following: (1) drowning of large wetland areas by building dams; (2) reducing of inflow to the vlei by damming tributary streams and not releasing sufficient water from dams at the right times of the year; (3) wasteful irrigation, including centre-pivots; (4) digging of boreholes; (5) annual burning and spring grazing of large sections of the palustrine wetland vegetation; (6) the uncontrolled spread of invasive, non-native wattle trees Acacia along the Mzintlava river and the adjacent veld.The recent granting of afforestation permits to 12 farmers within the immediate catchment of Franklin vlei, although reducing the area requested for planting from 9,000 ha to 6,000 ha, apparently did nothing to address the serious environmental problems that could well arise from the afforestation. The calculated drop in water entering the vlei system as a result of the afforestation will be c.10%, and this, especially in view of the abuses that are already practised on the wetland system, represents an unacceptably high reduction in water input. It appears that the proposals were not put out to review in the manner laid down by the current legislation, nor was the EIA made properly available to interested parties. No attempt has been made to ensure the implementation of proper controls on the afforestation and the subsequent activities of the land-users, and the 80 or more objections lodged against the proposed afforestation have apparently not been given the proper treatment.The immediate catchment of the Llewellyn sector of Franklin vlei, at the northern end of this wetland, is due to be afforested. This would result in direct run-off being reduced by 38%, which would seriously affect the character of this portion of the wetland. This, coupled with concomitant disturbance, erosion and siltation will probably effectively destroy the Rheboksfontein portion of the wetland, while the adjacent grassland will probably also be afforested.The Franklin vlei system is rated as one of the priority wetlands of KwaZulu-Natal, with important functional values for water-storage, streamflow regulation, flood attenuation, sediment trapping, waste assimilation and wildlife protection. It holds the globally threatened Sarothrura ayresi and breeding Grus carunculatus. Its importance to conservation cannot be overemphasized. It is a prime example of a wetland system which requires the long-term protection that only an area directive can afford, and an integrated management plan for the whole Franklin catchment is urgently required.
References Begg (1989), Taylor (1994, 1995, 1997a,b).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Franklin vlei. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/06/2013
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