Inspiring The Youth
Gansbaai Primery Fynbos Ecology Expo
The WCC schools 2023 expo circuit continued with lessons on fynbos ecology at Gansbaai Primêr. A total of 70 Grade 6 learners came to find out more. The learners visited each of the 5 demonstrations in groups of 7.
Kathie explained what we mean by biodiversity and that the wide variety of species provides ecological resilience against environmental catastrophes like climate change. On South Africa’s coat of arms is the saying: “Diverse people unite”. In the group attending the tutorial, we looked at how we are different. Then we looked at our environment and how we all have to adapt to adversity e.g. load shedding and when it is very hot. We all learn to adapt and cope in different ways and we try to help each other.
Then we looked at Fynbos and talked about the hot, windy dry summers and how the plants adapt. Proteas have thick, waxy leaves, Ericas have small, dry curled leaves, Restios have no leaves and geophytes form bulbs which hide underground in summer. Then we looked at diversity and adaptation in plants such as Roridula and how it lives symbiotically with the Pameridea beetle and how tourists come to see this miracle of symbiosis. Then we looked at the dung beetle and the amazing adaptations to clear the area of dung and thus reduce Page 2 of 2 the number of flies. So we see that biodiversity or life variations makes it possible for life on earth.
Anina Lee explained how all our food, both vegetable and animal, comes from the energy of the sun in a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis occurs in green leaves (containing chlorophyll) and makes glucose and oxygen from carbon dioxide and water.
This process is critical to the survival of nearly all life on earth, as it is the primary source of the oxygen that is necessary for the respiration of animals and other organisms.
Shirley Mgoboza started by explaining the causes of global warming and how it changes weather patterns: hot and dry summers and how plants are affected by the changing weather.
She then discussed the scourge of alien invasive plants (APIs) in the fynbos. These AIPs are the main threat to fynbos biodiversity and ecosystem services provided by fynbos. Shirley showed examples of AIPs and discussed how to remove them.
Board member Stephanie Vegter put up an amazing display demonstrating pollination of flowers and their pollinators, complete with pollen grains on the flower anthers and on the bee. She explained that pollination is the process by which pollen grains from the male part of a flower (anther) are transferred to the female part of another flower (stigma), leading to fertilization and the production of seeds. This essential process enables the reproduction of flowering plants and is vital for the production of many fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Pollination can be achieved by various means, including wind, water, and insects such as bees, butterflies, and beetles. The transfer of pollen can occur within a single flower or between flowers on the same plant or between different plants. Pollination plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and providing food for both humans and animals.
We are most grateful to the AVI Community Trust for sponsoring this expo.
Okkie Smuts Wetland Education
Members of the WCC schools education team hosted an outdoor wetlands education Programme in the Stanford Mill Stream for learners from Okkie Smuts. Wetlands are areas where water either covers the surface or saturates the soil for all or part of the year. They include lakes, pans, seeps, marshes, swamps, reedbeds, floodplains, vleis and estuaries. Wetlands are so special because they provide a variety of ecosystem services such as providing habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial animals including frogs, fish and birds.
Wetlands play an important role in water purification and flood control. A total of sixty eight Grades 4 and 5 learners came to find out more about wetlands and the work that has been done by WCC on the Mill Stream. The learners broke into smaller groups and visited each of the five stations.
Board member Stephanie Vegter explained that in a natural pond, there are plants and animals that live and grow, creating a balanced ecosystem. Rainwater provides a habitat for wetland flora and fauna. She showed them some plants such as the shrubs on the edges, reeds in water, and submerged plants with tiny leaves.
She also pointed out animals on the edge of the pond – birds, small mammals, reptiles, snails, tadpoles, and insects like water skaters, spiders.
The learners did water testing to determine the pH of the water, chlorine content, nitrate content and the hardness of the water. This gives an indication of how healthy the pond water is.
Shirley Mgoboza spoke about Project Storm. The stormwater drainage system carries water that is washed from the streets into the Mill Stream. This water contains high levels of nitrates and phosphates which stimulate the growth of plants in the stream and congest it. Shirley explained what the purpose of installing gabions at the stormwater discharge points is. Biofilm grows on the surface of the stone inside the gabions. There are unicellular algae in the biofilm that absorb these chemical compounds. There is also algae growing on and in the gabions which do the same thing. In addition, we created a lily pond and a combo lily and reed bed beyond the gabions. These plants also absorb Page 2 of 3 phosphates and nitrates. We test for nitrates and phosphates at various points to see which treatment or combination of treatments is the most effective in reducing the levels of nitrate and phosphates in the water. Shirley tested for nitrates at two points. The tests measured 0.5mg/l nitrates before the gabion and 0mg/l nitrates after.
Sheraine van Wyk gave an overview of the Mill Stream Project to the group, in a very truncated way emphasizing that the borrow pit captures the stream, and collects and holds polluting chemicals and silt. She also mentioned that the project started because of a citizen science frog monitoring project with Okkie Smuts boarding house learners who was able to work with her at night and early in the morning before the sun came up. They found that there were no aquatic frogs in the main body of the stream or the borrow pit. The need to investigate what the problems with the system are and how to fix it was established through the work of those primary school learners. She talked about the chemicals that we
find in high concentrations in the water i.e. nitrates and phosphates.
She then showed the overflow pipe and explained the Project Storm application there. They sampled water from the pipe outlet and also took a sample from below the fourth gabion. The test results showed a 50% reduction in the phosphate content between these two points. The experiment appears to be working!
We are most grateful to the AVI Community Trust and BOCMA for sponsoring this outdoor education programme.