False Bay Nature Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description (baseline)
This proposed park is centred on Strandfontein Sewage Works, but also includes Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei. Situated on the Cape Flats between Muizenberg and Mitchell’s Plain, 20 km south of Cape Town, Strandfontein, like many wetlands around South Africa’s major cities, is almost entirely man-made. Prior to 1922 the only wetland habitat at the site was the small temporary marsh Tamatievlei. In 1922, a small sewage works was built, and additional water was channelled into the system from the nearby Zeekoevlei. Over the years the complex has been enlarged progressively. By 1976 the small water-body, Tamatievlei, had been converted into 34 settling ponds covering over 306 ha.

The system provides a range of semi-natural habitats, including deep and shallow open water, seasonal open ponds, canals with aquatic vegetation, reed, rush and sedge-beds, bare and vegetated shorelines and islands. Well-grassed banks separate the ponds. The sewage works functions entirely by algal decomposition, a process that requires a large number of shallow vleis. The algae and the large number of copepods which accompany them provide a rich food supply for many bird species.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. The wetlands act as a network, but the majority of the birds are centred on the Strandfontein Sewage Works, where a total of 168 species has been recorded; of these, 76 are freshwater wetland species and a further 18 are coastal species that visit the area to roost or breed. Breeding has been confirmed for 45 waterbird species. This high diversity of waterbirds is due to the wide range of wetland habitats present, and the proximity of Strandfontein to the ocean, which permits both freshwater and coastal species to exploit the system. The abundance of waterbirds supported by Strandfontein has increased progressively since the 1950s, reaching an average of over 23,200 individuals during the period 1980–1990. During extreme years, numbers rise above 30,000. The following nationally threatened and near-threatened species are found at Strandfontein: Phoenicopterus ruber, Pelecanus onocrotalus, Circus ranivorus, Sterna caspia and Charadrius pallidus. The site holds a regular tern roost of some 3,000 birds when the water is low enough for islands to form in the shallow pans, including fairly large numbers of Sterna hirundo, S. sandvicensis and S. bergii.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Strandfontein Sewage Works is administered by the Cape Town City Council. Birds that breed at the nearby Rondevlei Nature Reserve, currently the only protected vlei on the Cape Flats, probably forage extensively at the sewage works. During the 1980s, a coastal park linking the Strandfontein Sewage Works to Rondevlei and Zeekoevlei was proposed. The proposed park was never realized owing to a money shortage. Newly proposed developments in the area, which would isolate Rondevlei and Zeekoevlei, have led to renewed calls for the establishment of a reserve protecting these important wetlands and their surrounding endangered strandveld vegetation, which is under threat from invasive non-native trees Acacia.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: False Bay Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 30/05/2023.