Working for Wetlands 02 of 2010 – Waterberg Wetlands in Limpopo

Apr 29, 2010

MISSION  12  of  2010

Name of Mission: Working for Wetlands 02 of 2010 –¬† Waterberg Wetlands in Limpopo¬†
Date of Mission: 29th April 2010            
Passengers: Piet-Louis Grundling and Jerome Mandoma РWorking for Wetlands Aircraft used: Cessna 170B                
Pilot: Karl Jensen

Objective of the Flight:

Determine the status of wetlands in the Waterberg by doing an aerial survey of impacts in these wetlands. The results, by prioritising identified wetlands for field verification, will feed back into the SANBI Phase1 and rehabilitation planning procedure.

Report by the beneficiary: PIET-LOUIS  GRUNDLING

The Implementer for Waterberg Wetland Park, Jerome Mandoma, was joined by Piet-Louis Grundling (Wetland specialist) to fly this mission with Bateleurs pilot Karl Jensen. We took off from Potgietersrus Airstrip  on a clear day with excellent conditions for an aerial survey. These good conditions prevailed and we covered the complete study area as planned.

The wetlands investigated during the flight were mainly valley channelled and unchanneled valley bottom   wetlands, floodplains and hillslope seeps.  The wetlands and associated problems are summarised in Table 1 below. The Wonderkrater wetland was prioritised for 2010/11 phase

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2 investigations as draining, bush encroachment and erosion are posing a threat to the health of this domed artesian peatland, a rare wetland type in South Africa . Various wetlands were identified in the Welgevonden Nature Reserve. The Sterkstroom and Malmaries wetlands  were selected due to draining of seep zones (Sterkstroom)  and road related impacts such as erosion and drying out . More impacts were identified in the Upper Nyl section  of the  Nyl Floodplain (rehabilitation is already underway in parts of this system). Impacts in this wetland include berms and drains  as well as extensive cultivation and or/grazing.

Failures of previous rehabilitation works in the key point area of the Nyl Floodplain were noted as well as very successful interventions which contributed to an extensive flooding event for the 2009/2010 rain season . Some illegal practices such as building of lodges  and dams  were noted. These were reported to Department of Water Affairs and the Blue Scorpions are at present investigating these potential transgressions.

This mission was a great success. Not only were an adequate number of wetlands and problems identified to be investigated for 2011/12, but illegal developments were also noted and are being investigated. The flight also allowed the team a better perspective on the extent and variety of wetlands in the Waterberg. The willingness of the pilot, Karl Jensen, to exploit the optimal weather conditions was especially appreciated. His aircraft is a great surveying platform.

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Report by the pilot: KARL  JENSEN

Prior to this mission Piet-Louis Grundling (SANBI ‚Äď Working for Wetlands) sent me about 35 Google Earth pictures of the wetlands he wished to survey from the air. I converted these to GPS positions and entered them as a ROUTE on my Garmin 296 avoiding doubling back or a lengthy zig-zag track.

The wetlands were essentially along the Klein Sandspruit which flows eastwards on the southern side of the Waterberg range where extensive agricultural activity has compromised the wetlands flowing into this river. The track then took us to points east of Welgevonden and thereafter over large areas of Welgevonden and Marakele. The next part of the survey took us directly to the start of the Nylsvley wetland near Bela Bela (Warmbaths), to Modimole (Nylstroom) and then as far as Makopane (Potgietersrust).  Low flight authorisation over Welgevonden, Marakele and Nylsvley was organised although the survey height was never below 1000’ above ground level, except when surveying the Nylsvley Reserve and adjacent wetlands where we flew not lower than 5-800 feet agl to cause minimal disturbance to fauna.

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The entire week prior to the mission  had seen heavy rain and low clouds that would have made the mission extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fly safely. The weather forecast for the day was partly cloudy weather with showers and thundershowers with moderate winds. However, on the day of the mission, the air was like silk, initially with superb visibility and only partly cloudy skies from midmorning.

I was asked to collect Piet-Louis and Jerome Mandoma (Thangasi Environmental Projects) from Polokwane. To operate as cost effectively as practical, I suggested a pickup at Potgietersrust airfield. Driving to my hangar at Fly Inn near Bapsfontein, I called Jerome Mandoma at Modimolle (Nylstroom) as he was unsure of the whereabouts of the Potgietersrus airfield, so I told him to meet me at Nylstroom airfield. I collected Jerome at the appointed time and we flew along the mountain ridge to Potgietersrus to collect Piet Louis who was travelling by car from Louis Trichardt.  This 20 minute hop allowed Jerome to get accustomed to flying in a light aircraft but when we landed he was not comfortable, so I gave him some motion sickness tablets that seemed to ease his condition.  We were eventually able to depart at 10h40.

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Piet-Louis sat in the front seat so that he could take pictures and Jerome on the back seat to observe and note GPS position numbers whenever he was asked by Piet-Louis. The chatter between Piet-Louis and Jerome was lively and continuous as they discussed their study subjects. Piet-Louis took copious pictures and many GPS marks were called with which Piet-Louis annotated his photos. We dropped Jerome off at Nylstroom airfield after 2 hrs 35 mins of flying, much to his relief. Piet-Louis and I then continued for 30 minutes along the Nylsvley until Potgietersrus. The Nylsvley was in flood for the 2nd time in 2010 ‚Äď what a magnificent sight.

I recorded the track we had flown on my GPS for my own records. During the survey, many degradations of wetland systems were noted that Piet-Louis and Jerome Mandoma said required their follow-up and intervention. Few of the degradations of the study wetlands would’ve been readily visible from ground level.  Piet-Louis ran out of battery power and storage capacity on his camera, but was able to utilise mine in order to complete the record.

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The following day, after I had e-mailed Piet-Louis 45 pictures he took with my camera, I received a bleating call that all the GPS marks that Jerome had made were to no avail – as their GPS was not computing valid positions.¬† Fortunately, Piet-Louis had made time notes each time he took pictures. I then spent a full day interrogating the Garmin website and managed to download a large programme that allowed me to extract the track from my GPS which we had flown with a ‚Äėbreadcrumb‚Äô trail. This gave the exact time and co-ordinates every few minutes of the mission. I sent the data to Piet-Louis so that he would be able to correlate his pictures.

The total distance flown was 505 nm (935 km) in 5 hr 35 mins

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