Support NVT’s important coastal conservation research for the Garden Route’s birds & beaches!

Selena Flores
26 July 2014

The Nature’s Valley Trust has a big focus on coastal issues in our community. We are excited to start a new conservation research project this summer, studying local shorebirds and the beaches we all love! We aim to devise effective solutions protecting birds and coastal habitats, balancing human activity to reduce impacts of major threats and keep our coasts healthy. There’s just one thing — we are still in need of funding for some of the most important parts of the project. Check out out how you can contribute to our fundraiser & help make it happen!

Donate to join us in making sure it’s always “a day at the beach” for shorebirds!

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Read on for more about the issues, the project, and our fundraiser!

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With magnificent wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and diverse cultures, South Africa has become a highly sought after destination. The popular Garden Route is known for forests dramatically set against the shore. Many shorebirds live along Garden Route beaches, like White-fronted Plover & African Black Oystercatcher — which were recently endangered. Shorebirds and coastal habitats are threatened by human use, rapid development, and effects of climate change. Since shorebirds are decreasing around the world at an alarming rate, these issues seriously affect them and the health of our coast!  

The global coastal population is currently at 3 billion people…and set to double in just the next 10 years. Adding to the incredible pressure of more humans and development, shorebirds breed during summer, when people also like to visit the coast. Shorebird nests are of particular concern — their eggs and chicks are camouflage experts, blending in with sand, shells, rocks, and plants. This is so predators can’t see them…but neither can we! It creates a significant problem, since we can disturb a nest or baby birds while enjoying the beach and not even know it. Shorebirds also think humans and our pets are threats. When you get close to a nest, the parents run away — leaving eggs and chicks very vulnerable to being stepped on, abandoned, or exposed to heat, cold, and predators. 

Beaches are under-protected, despite being crucial habitats for animals and plants. This leads to a dire need for careful conservation of coastal areas. We are seeing shorebirds disappear fast, mostly from habitat destruction and other human-caused issues. Recent research shows White-fronted Plovers decreased 40-60% in busy areas over the last 30 years, and these birds naturally do not travel far to other beaches. This only reinforces that human disturbance can have devastating consequences. 

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How people affect beaches on the Garden Route has never been thoroughly studied. Our research examines how much of shorebird survival has to do with human activities on the coast. We’ll do this by monitoring Oystercatcher and Plover nests, to see which ones are successful, which are not, and why. We will determine a “disturbance buffer zone” — how far people and dogs need to be from a nest or baby birds, so we don’t put them in danger. 

These oystercatchers and plovers aren’t currently endangered, but they face risks that will cause them to be in the near future. The shorebird research will develop a proactive approach to conservation, thinking ahead to what might happen if we don’t address these issues. This project will also connect scientists to the community and environmental agencies. Our results will be used to make recommendations to those driving our community, ensuring beach protection is balanced with human activity to sustain our beautiful coast. Outreach will involve volunteers helping check shorebird nests, engaging the community with awareness programs, and offering school activities.

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This isn’t just about birds — it’s about the entire coastal community! Beaches and sand dunes (where shorebirds nest & live) are so much more than a pretty place for people to have fun. Protecting these vital areas helps us in many ways! The coasts support large residential and tourism industries, yielding economic benefits. These habitats are also involved in important natural protection against storms, and help prevent erosion (break down of land) by keeping the coasts we live and play on stable. Human activities, however, can have severe impacts on beaches if left unchecked. 

Shorebirds are also indicator species  — animals that tell us how our coasts are doing. Wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems are all intertwined, affecting each other in ways we don’t fully understand yet. If we can see birds are thriving on our beaches, we know shoreline ecosystems are probably healthy, too — as a whole! Though, shorebirds are declining worldwide. If we lose the birds, we also lose a great source of useful information about nature. 

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We have been hard at work developing this research project, and networking to drum up support far and wide. Now we need your help to make it happen.

We still need funds toward:

  • A vehicle (to get us to and from the beaches) — for travel between our many field research sites along the Garden Route, and to be used in all of the Nature’s Valley Trust’s environmental projects. We have gratefully received partial sponsorship from Knysna Toyota!
  • Research staff (so we have the right people on the job) — for compensation of key players who have the necessary experience in effective coastal bird conservation programs for this project.
  • Field equipment (to get good information & communicate our research) — for smaller but important items, such as binoculars, educational materials, and costs to organize a citizen science program.

Coastal conservation research 6You can make a difference by donating to our remaining needs! 

Please contribute and share this important research!



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