Wetlands of Mauritius

Grass blades reflecting in a small pool of water

A wetland is a place that is permanently or seasonally filled with fresh water, salt water or a mixture of these two. As such, wetlands include areas such as marshes, ponds, borders of rivers and lakes and deltas. Though often neglected in environmental conservation programmes, wetlands are one of the most important ecological units of the environment. For instance, wetlands act as natural water filters, trapping metals and other toxic elements in the sediment [1].

Types of wetlands in Mauritius

Mauritius is entirely surrounded by seawater. Freshwater sources include reservoirs, rivers, lakes and ponds that cover an area of 435 ha [2]. The water basins, combined with the rugged topography of the island, have given birth to the different types of wetlands as follows:

       Type of wetland                                Location Size (ha)
1.      Floodplain inland (such as the banks of rivers and lakes) 62
2.      Marshes coastal and inland (transition areas where the land meets the sea and ponds) 240
3.      Estuaries coastal 95
4.      Mangrove swamps coastal 49
5.      Marine coasts coastal 118
6.      Lakes inland


25
7.      Depressions inland 50
8.      Reservoirs inland 1200

144 wetlands falling in the above-mentioned categories have been identified [3]. They cover an area of 1839 ha, concentrating mostly on the east and south-east coasts of the island. This is due to the amount of rainfall that these areas receive throughout the year. Water seeps into the ground and is retained in the soil causing the upper layers to remain moist and overflow. Natural wetlands cover only a surface area of 639 ha; they include marshes and mangrove swamps.

Importance of wetlands in Mauritius

1.      Environmental

It goes without saying that wetlands play a vital role in maintaining the appropriate environmental balance. They act as sponges during rainfall and absorb water. Mangrove forests protect the shore from waves, tsunamis and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

2.      Commercial

Many plants such as watercress and songe grow in the muddy areas near river banks. These sites are thus used for commercial and private cultivation of these foodstuffs. Fishes and crustaceans depend on the sediment of mangroves and estuaries as breeding sites; this, in turn, provides food for predators like birds and ultimately humans. The wetlands also have recreational uses such as bird sighting at Rivulet Terre Rouge and kayaking in the mangroves of Ile D’Ambre.

3.      Religious

The Grand Bassin basin has religious importance for the Hindu community. It is considered as a sacred lake connected to the Ganges River in India.

Ramsar sites

In September 2001, Mauritius adopted the Convention on Wetlands to protect and conserve the local marshes and to use them wisely is a sustainable way. Also called the Ramsar Convention (after the city in Iran in which it was first adopted), three sites of international importance covering an area of 401 ha [4] were nominated:

  1. Rivulet Terre Rouge Estuary Bird Sanctuary – 26.4 ha
  2. Blue Bay Marine Park – 353 ha
  3. Pointe D’Esny – 22 ha

References:

  1. Defenders of wildlife. (2018). Basic facts about wetlands. [online] Available at https://defenders.org/wetlands/basic-facts [Accessed 12/04/2018]
  2. Paul, E.C. (1987). Fisheries Development and the Food Needs of Mauritius. Rotterdam, Netherlands: A.A Balkema Publishers, pp 39
  3. Mamoun, C.M., Nigel, R. and Rughooputh, S.D.D.V. (2013). Wetlands’ Inventory, Mapping and Land Cover Assessment on Mauritius. Journal of the Society of Wetland Scientists. Springer DOI 10.1007/s13157-013-0415-z [pdf] Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236329515_Wetlands’_Inventory_Mapping_and_Land_Cover_Index_Assessment_on_Mauritius [Accessed 12/04/2018]
  4. Ramsar Sites Information Service. [online] Available at https://rsis.ramsar.org/ris-search/?f[0]=regionCountry_en_ss%3AMauritius&pagetab=1 [Accessed 12/04/2018]

2 Comments on “Wetlands of Mauritius

  1. Pingback: Flooding: Types, Dangers and Mitigation Measures - Yo Nature

  2. Pingback: Extreme Weather: Flash floods become frequent in Mauritius - Yo Nature

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *