The seminal work by Professor John Day and his colleagues at the University of Cape Town, during the late 1940's and later research studies on the coastal lakes and estuaries of the south coast of the Western Cape during the 1970's by the Institute of Freshwater Studies (now the Institute for Water Research) at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, provided the basis upon which the project developed.
A notable feature of the Knysna estuarine complex is that it is the largest on the south coast and possesses the highest plant and animal diversity of all South African estuaries. The studies of John Day established the importance of quiet, wave reduced tidal flow and gently shelving intertidal shore, that support rich array of plant and substratum habitats, which together, give shelter, food and protection to a wide spectrum of animals, invertebrate and vertebrate. Of particular interest and concern is the famous and endangered Knysna seahorse, Hippocampus capensis, this species is endemic to South Africa and its present population status in the Knysna estuary and adjacent systems needs re-evaluation, following the earlier assessments between 2001 and 2003, (see reports). The new studies by Richard Barnes of the community structure of the eelgrass beds adds significantly to the richness of the estuarine biodiversity.
Research endeavours include the description of the physico-chemical characteristics of the Knysna estuary; the hydrographical character of the Knysna estuary; the structure and status of the intertidal wetlands of the Knysna estuary; the abundance of waterbirds on the Knysna estuary etc.
Recent and current research includes studies by staff and volunteers from Knysna Basin Project (KBP) and visiting researchers from South Africa and overseas.
- Knysna Seahorse Status (KySS), a three year project with the aim of re-establishing the distribution and abundance of the Knysna seahorse, Hippocampus capensis
- ShoreSearch, a long term project to record the biodiversity of the intertidal zone of the estuary
- Research into the endangered false limpet, Siphonaria compressa
- The recently concluded Rock Shores study of the recolonisation of new areas of seawall around the estuary which is published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa
- Research into the biodiversity and distribution of the animals living in the seagrass beds (see 'Resources: Scientific publications')
Studies by visiting researchers:
- Studies of the truncated mangrove snail, Cerithidea decollata, a recent arrival in the Estuary, and the invasive Mediteranian mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis, by Dr Alan Hodgson and students from Rhodes University
- Research into ostracod distribution in sub-surface sediments by students from the University of Jena, Germany