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Location South Africa, Eastern Cape
Central coordinates 25o 35.00' East  33o 51.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 926 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary The Swartkops Estuary is located on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. The catchment of this river lies in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains west of Uitenhage. The lower river receives water primarily from the Swartkops and Elands rivers. This complex holds, on average, 14 500 birds each year; occasionally 20 000. Redhouse Saltpan and the Swartkops Estuary each regularly hold more than 4 000 birds a year.

Site description The Swartkops estuary is located on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, 15 km north of the harbour. The catchment of this river lies in the Groot Winterhoek mountains west of Uitenhage. The lower river receives water primarily from the Swartkops and Elands rivers, which flow parallel to each other, in relatively steep narrow valleys, and have their confluence shortly after entering the flood-plain. The estuary is tidal for c.16 km upstream, the upper reaches are narrow (c.90 m wide), channel-like, and twist their way through steep banks of muddy sand. In the upper estuary there is a small, sandy intertidal area. The estuary widens slightly and becomes less convoluted between Bar None saltpans and Brickfields in the middle reaches. Below Brickfields, the steep banks flatten and the estuary broadens considerably (c.350 m wide) into open mudflats.

The permanently open mouth is covered with eelgrass Zostera beds, which disappeared in 1983 resulting in the formation of extensive intertidal mudflats. The Zostera has since returned and the mudflat area has receded. Redhouse saltpan is situated on the north bank of the Swartkops flood-plain, within the Swartkops Valley Nature Reserve. Chatty saltpans occur south of the Swartkops–Redhouse railway-line near Brickfields. Three islands occur at Redhouse saltpan. The primary plants in the saltpans are the macrophytes Ruppia and Enteromorpha. The terrestrial vegetation surrounding the estuary consists of coastal dune herbland, flood-plain scrubland, grassland and thicket.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. This site holds, on average, 14,500 birds each year, and occasionally it passes the 20,000-bird threshold. Redhouse saltpan and the Swartkops estuary each regularly hold more than 4,000 birds a year. On the estuary, up to 3,300 of these are Palearctic migrants, present mainly during the summer months. The estuary and the saltpans provide distinctly different habitats for the 70 waterbird species that regularly occur there. The intertidal mudflats near the mouth of the estuary support the greatest density of birds, including notable numbers of Haematopus moquini, Pluvialis squatarola, Numenius phaeopus and Tringa cinerea. Thirteen species have been recorded breeding at Redhouse saltpan. Two islands at Redhouse saltpan host the second largest coastal breeding colony of Phalacrocorax carbo in southern Africa. Larus dominicanus also breed in large numbers and the pan regularly supports over 430 nests. Redhouse saltpan also holds the second largest breeding colony of Sterna caspia in South Africa, including 20% of the country’s breeding birds in some years.

Non-bird biodiversity: The reptiles Bradypodion ventrale and Scelotes anguineus, two Algoa Bay endemics, are resident.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini winter  frequent  A1  Near Threatened 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta non-breeding  490 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres winter  363 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus breeding  430 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus winter  1,112 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2012 very high very unfavourable low
Habitat
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Agriculture and aquaculture marine and freshwater aquaculture - industrial aquaculture happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather drought likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather storms and floods likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Energy production and mining renewable energy likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases introduced genetic material likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - large dams happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - herbicides and pesticides happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - type unknown/unrecorded happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution domestic & urban waste water - run-off happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Pollution excess energy - light pollution happening now whole area/population (>90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution excess energy - noise pollution happening now whole area/population (>90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution garbage & solid waste happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high
Pollution industrial & military effluents - type unknown/unrecorded happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high
Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors utility & service lines happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Shrubland   0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable
Wetlands (inland)   0 0 moderate (70-90%) poor (40-69%) very unfavourable

Haematopus moquini African Oystercatcher 48 55 individuals 100 favourable
Arenaria interpres Ruddy Turnstone 363 601 individuals 100 favourable
Larus dominicanus Kelp Gull 1112 1436 individuals 100 favourable
Hydroprogne caspia Caspian Tern 105 22 individuals 21 very unfavourable
Chlidonias hybrida Whiskered Tern 243 243 individuals 100 favourable

Some of site covered (10-49%)  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Swartkops Valley Local Authority Nature Reserve Nature Reserve 1,030 protected area overlaps with site 150  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland   -
Shrubland   -
Wetlands (inland) Saltpans  -
Forest   100%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
tourism/recreation -
nature conservation and research 100%
water management 60%

References Baird et al. (1986), Crawford et al. (1982a), Martin (1991b), Martin and Baird (1987, 1988a,b), Martin and Randall (1987).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Swartkops Estuary - Redhouse and Chatty Saltpans. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/05/2015

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife