Namaqua Fossil Forest MPA

"Submerged Yellowwoods"

West of Namaqualand, Northern Cape

 

Offshore of the dry northwest Cape coast lies evidence of age-old forests; trunks of fossilized yellowwood trees covered in delicate corals.

A hundred million years ago, the sea-level was more than 200 m lower than today and home to temperate yellowwood forests. In 1997, a submersible named Jago explored the deep seas off Kleinzee for mining purposes and found the fossilized yellowwood tree trunks covered in delicate corals that stand out against surrounding mud, silt and gravel habitats. These fossil forests provide a window into past climates and are not known to be found anywhere else in our oceans. One of the wood types was described as a new but extinct yellowwood species and was named Podocarpoxylon jago after the yellow submarine that enabled its discovery. In 2014 this area was recognised as globally important and declared as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area. This 1200 km2 proposed MPA would protect vulnerable habitats on the seabed, including a new species of sponge that was recently described.

 

BENEFITS

  • Unique fossilized yellowwood forest with sensitive cold water corals, mud habitat and sponge gardens

  • Provides VALUABLE information about past climate

  • Protects fishing grounds and hake nursEry area from mining and other activities that impact the seabed