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Location South Africa, Western Cape
Central coordinates 20o 0.00' East  34o 43.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 9,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 20m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description This complex wetland system, located at the southern tip of the African continent, 25 km south of Bredasdorp, consists of the Nuwejaarsrivier and its associated marshes, Soetendalsvlei and the Heuningnes river and its estuary (the southernmost estuary in Africa). The area of interest extends from 5 km upstream of the Nuwejaarsrivier–Soetendalsvlei confluence to the mouth of the Heuningnes river. The vlei acts as a reservoir, and when it overflows, the run-off spills over into the Heuningnes river, which feeds the estuary. The primary wetland area is found between Heuningrug and Wiesdrif. Vegetation includes mixed and monospecific stands of tall to short sedges, reeds and grasses (Eleocharis, Cyperus, Scirpus, Typha, Phragmites), open mud patches, shallow water, Isolepis mats, deep pools and shallow pan-like pools. A second wetland area is the 5 km stretch of the Nuwejaarsrivier close to Moddervlei. The Wiesdrif pan on the farm is a shallow flooded depression in grassland, with much emergent vegetation. Many of the river channels are poorly defined and drainage into the estuary occurs via vleis and marshes, which constitute large areas of wetland.The estuary mouth comprises an extensive bay with sand, mudflats and tidal saltmarsh, dominated by Limonium, Salicornia and Sarcocornia. Heavily grazed and degraded flood-plain vegetation is found between the saltmarsh and the sandbanks. Patches of reed Phragmites occur at places along the riverbanks. The terrestrial vegetation adjacent to the estuary consists of dune scrub (coastal fynbos). The estuary is important as a nursery ground for marine fish.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cape Francolin Francolinus capensis resident  1998    Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus breeding  300-450 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus winter  700-1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Damara Tern Sterna balaenarum breeding  common [units unknown]  A1  Near Threatened 
Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis resident  1998    Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
De Mond Provincial Nature Reserve 927 protected area contained by site 1,580  
De Mond (Heuningnes estuary) Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 918 protected area contained by site 918  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Salt marshes; Sand dunes and beaches - riverine  -
Artificial - terrestrial   12%
Shrubland   62%
Forest   25%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 17%
other -
nature conservation and research 100%

Other biodiversity The reptile Bradypodion pumilum (CR) is thought to occur in the area.

References Bickerton (1984), Burger et al. (1980), Cowan (1995), Cowan and Marneweck (1996), Crawford et al. (1982a), Summers et al. (1976), Taylor (1997a,b), Underhill and Cooper (1984).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Heuningnes river and estuary system. Downloaded from on 19/04/2014

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