The Vermont Salt Pan, a part of the greenbelt system, is also classified as critically endangered area.
- Author: Jeanette du Toit
- Monday, 21 March 2016
Vermont is a residential suburb on the western side of Hermanus in South Africa, developed some 15 to 20 years ago with approximately 20% of its area dedicated to retaining the original coastal fynbos. In effect, this forms natural Green Belts or ‘ecological corridors’ meandering through the suburb from the mountain to the sea and along the coast. Apart from the natural vegetation that these green belts protect, they are also home to numerous bird species and small animals with at least two antelope species, mongoose, porcupine and caracal (a medium size wild cat) frequently seen in the area. From time to time evidence of leopard have also been reported - they occur on the Vermont Mountain.
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Vermont overlays three Fynbos sub-veldtypes namely Overberg Sandstone Fynbos, Hangklip Sand Fynbos and Overberg Dune Strandveld. The former two sub-veldtypes have been declared ‘Critically Endangered’ and ‘Endangered’ respectively in terms of South Africa’s National Biodiversity Act’s National List of Ecosystems. The Green Belts of Vermont are therefore priority conservation areas. The Vermont Salt Pan is an integral part of its Green Belt system. It is a mildly saline wetland also classified as a ‘Critically Endangered Ecosystem’. The Salt Pan is situated in a land depression of about 17,5 ha and has only a floodwater outflow. The pan has a system of feeder reed-covered wetlands stretching eastwards for 1 km and its water levels are largely dependent on prevailing groundwater levels. Wildlife and birdlife are still well represented here with up to 600 plus Flamingos frequenting the Salt Pan - sometimes for up to six months in a year.
On the eastern edge of the pan a Milkwood woodland thicket under which marine shell remains can still be found – evidence of the Khoisan people who inhabited this area some 2 to 3 000 years ago.
On the western side of the pan, a small population of Disa hallackii, an endangered orchard recorded from about ten localities along the coast South Africa was discovered last year after invasive alien vegetation was cleared in the area. The orchid is considered to be one of the most threatened orchid species in South Africa, severely threatened by coastal developments and dense infestations by invasive alien plants.
The Vermont Salt Pan system is undoubtedly a priority conservation worthy area and a natural heritage asset for its community but the Vermont Conservation Trust is deeply concerned about its future as funding is required soon to ensure that its ecological integrity is maintained. Although its conservation-worthiness is recognised by all authorities, the Overstrand Local Authority are cash strapped and unable at this point to invest in the future of the pan. The Western Cape Provincial conservation authority, CapeNature, also recognise it as a priority but they need to prioritise their funding towards larger regional priorities.
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