A citizen science project in Stanford, Western Cape has had important environmental restoration consequences.
Initially this citizen science project was created to give volunteers the knowledge and skill to identify frog species and to teach them how to record frog monitoring data. The frog species that were identified were uploaded to the Animal Demographic Unit’s virtual museum called FrogMap.
The frog monitoring data was used to assess the health of the Mill stream/dam/wetland system in the urban area of Stanford. The project findings were unexpected. Although there was a fair number of species present in the urban area, these frogs were not found in the dam and stream. This was not a good sign. Frogs do not inhabit polluted areas and the results suggested that the stream and dam may be polluted. The water was duly tested for nitrate and faecal coliforms and there was clear evidence for the presence of faecal coliforms in the stream. This suggested that the source or sources of the pollution lay upstream. Various stakeholders such as the Overstrand municipal officials, engineers, CapeNature officials, scientists and researchers from Stellenbosch University were then involved in the project. All the stakeholders were committed to work towards restoring the ecological health of the millstream and dam.
As a consequence, a thorough study of the system is underway. An environmental improvement plan, based on research recommendations, will be formulated. For such a project to be successful it is important for communities to be included and consulted in all the issues relating to prioritising rehabilitation objectives and the management of the ecological system.
Furthermore, citizen science groups will be trained to monitor bio-indicators in order to assess the effectiveness of various management strategies to the health of the system.
This project is a fine example of how scientists, local government and communities can all contribute to identifying environmental threats and ultimately achieving a common conservation goal.