Natural Heritage: Our fragile, living treasure
Princess Vlei is the first substantial water body in the massive wetland system extending through Grassy Park to Strandfontein. As a wetland, it offers a range of ecosystem services such as mitigating winter floods, providing habitat, purifying water, and retaining nitrogen, lowering the demands on public sewage and water works. These functions are particularly urgent now for building resilience to climate change. Princess Vlei also has value in sustaining the fragile floral kingdom of the Western Cape, which is a world heritage site.
The Greater Princess Vlei Conservation Area forms part of the City of Cape Town’s biodiversity network (BioNet) – a network of sites making up the viable minimum area required to conserve a representative sample of the City’s biodiversity. Three vegetation types, occur in the area: Cape Lowlands Freshwater Wetlands, Cape Flats Dune Strandveld from False Bay (endangered) and Cape Flats Sand Fynbos (critically endangered). In addition Princess Vlei, Little Princess Vlei and the Mocke River are utilised extensively for breeding and foraging by the endangered Western Leopard Toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus) and are home to a number of rare bird species. (GPVCA Environmental Management Plan, CIty of Cape Town - see down load link below.)
A 2008 Biodiversity Network study established that Cape Flats Sand Fynbos - the most critically endangered vegetation in South Africa - can be restored at Princess Vlei, which would be of huge benefit in protecting the diversity of this fragile biome. This process of restoration was begun 10 years ago, through a civic-led rehabilitation project, Dressing the Princess. In 2018, the Forum contracted a consultant to embark on a five year restoration plan. The plan proposes to fully restore 5 to 10 hectares of vegetation, revitalise habitats and biodiversity, involve community members in mass planting, and reintroduce 17 threatened species. Read more about this here. A detailed description of this can also be found on the Society of Ecological Restoration website.
Princess Vlei also offers an opportunity to reconnect highly urbanised societies with nature, and to be a centre of practice for community rehabilitation projects throughout the region.
Breaking down divisions between people and nature...
Princess Vlei can play a critical role in breaking down the separation between people and nature that is particularly evident in urbanised communities. Building these connections is critical for the future of our planet... Read more