BirdLife South Africa says time is running out for the Langebaan Lagoon - one of it's most precious Ramsar sites, and part of the West Coast National Park and Saldanha Bay islands Important Bird Area (IBA). Langebaan Lagoon is the most important wetland for waders in South Africa, regularly accounting for around 10% of South Africa's coastal wader numbers. The lagoon can support more than 37,500 non-passerine waterbirds in summer, of which 34,500 are waders, 93% of which are Palearctic migrants.
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Sanderling C. alba, Red Knot C. canutus and Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres are the major components of the summer wader assemblage. The coastal strandveld supports several restricted-range and biome-restricted species, including the recently described Long-billed Lark Certhilauda curvirostris.
In winter, the lagoon regularly supports more than 10,500 birds, of which 4,500 are Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus and 4,000 are waders. BirdLife South Africa reports that this important Western Cape wetland is now plagued by port expansion, sewerage pollution, urban development and tourism infrastructure development, and may lose its conservation status as a important site for South Africa's breeding coastal birds.
The existing iron ore terminal is set to double its capacity for iron ore exports. This planned expansion has been seriously criticized by conservation organisations due to the expected impact on the hydrology, lagoon sediments, birdlife and shoreline of the lagoon. Evidence of the long-term negative impacts of the original port development in the early 1970s is visible on the eastern shores of the lagoon at the Langebaan village.
"The beaches have practically disappeared due to the scouring tidal action that was created by the causeway and jetty when the iron ore terminal was constructed," said Carolyn Ah Shene of BirdLife South Africa's Policy & Advocacy Division. "Tidal water that used to take four days to return to the Atlantic Ocean is now believed to take up to seventeen days to return. The extra dredging that will be required for the double capacity terminal will have devastating impacts on the lagoon sediments and its biota. We believe this will have a serious knock-on effect on bird diversity and numbers at the lagoon."