Aquatic plants living within the coastal environment range from species that occupy the water column such as microalgae (e.g. phytoplankton) and floating or submerged plants (e.g. seagrasses), to those that inhabit the intertidal and supratidal regions, such as emergent macrophytes (e.g. salt marsh, reeds, sedges and mangroves). The area extending from the intertidal reaches of the seashore to the subtidal reefs is home to a fourth group of coastal marine vegetation, seaweeds. Each of the different habitat types are characterised by specific species or groups of species, based on their tolerance to salinity and inundation. Aquatic vegetation is largely associated with estuaries.
Around 98% of all animal species described are classified as invertebrates. Simply, invertebrates are animals that lack a backbone but are multicellular. With no backbone, these animals rely on other strategies for physical support such as hydrostatic pressure (e.g. sea anemones with a fluid-filled internal cavity), exoskeletons (e.g. crabs with a hard carapace) and shells (e.g. clams and mussels).
Sea turtles are iconic marine reptiles. They are well adapted for life at sea, with legs modified into flippers and bodies encased in a hard carapace. While these reptiles range widely in all oceans, they have remarkably localised nesting grounds. KZN's sea turtle nesting beaches are of enormous international significance, especially as they are protected and monitored. Sea turtles represent an important element of marine and coastal biodiversity for KZN and indeed South Africa and the world at large.
The KZN coast is blessed with a rich diversity of marine fish species. Estimates show that the southern African fish fauna comprise at least 2200 species, and a large percentage of these are found off the KZN coast.
The Prehistoric Coelacanth
The coelacanth is a so-called "Lazarus" species; an organism known from the fossil record long before a living species was discovered.
Sharks, Rays and Chimaeras
KZN is blessed with a wide diversity of sharks, rays and chimaeras, a group of fishes that have in common a skeleton made of cartilage. In general, these fishes are vulnerable to over-exploitation because of their life history characteristics; hence, careful attention needs to be paid to their conservation and management.
Whales and Dolphins
While occasional vagrant species of seals may be found off the KZN coast, and dugongs have historically been recorded as far south as Umhlali, it is the 36 species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) that comprise the true marine mammal fauna of the region.
Seabirds are broadly defined as birds that forage primarily on marine prey and spend most of their time (except when breeding) at sea. This excludes shorebirds, which are common in freshwater and estuarine systems but rely to a lesser degree on marine resources.
ORI • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University • KZN Sharks Board • University of Cape Town • Birdlife South Africa • Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
ORI • EDTEA
Janine Adams • Fiona MacKay • Rudy van der Elst • Bruce Mann • Sean Fennessy • Larry Oellermann • Sheldon Dudley • Ken Findlay • Ross Wanless • Andrea Angel