Linking the hydrological, geomorphological and sociological aspects of wetlands in rural areas : a case study based in the Craigieburn wetland microcatchment in the Sand River catchment.
In many of the rural areas of South Africa local communities rely on wetland resources for daily living. For a symbiotic relationship to exist between these communities and the wetlands, the wetlands must be utilised in a manner sustainable to both parties. To prevent exploitation thereof, a comprehensive understanding of the processes and functions of wetlands, of the values and needs of rural community members, and of the interactions between these entities is essential. This study focuses on research at three scales; the plot scale (10m\ the microcatchment scale (lkm2 ), represented by the Craigiebum wetland and microcatchment, and the catchment area upstream of the gauging weir X3H008, all of which exist in the Sand River catchment in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces of South Africa. Relationships between the geomorphological properties of the Craigiebum microcatchment, the wetland management practices of the local communities, and the hydrological properties of the microcatchment have been investigated. Various hydrological models, but in the main the ACRU model, have been adopted as tools to facilitate this research. Possible scenarios of changes in land use, rainfall and soil texture were performed at the plot scale and at the scale of the microcatchment, and changes in wetland extent were simulated and analysed at the scale of the catchment. Results of the modelling exercises simulating the effects of differences in soil texture higWight the positive effects of retention of fine particles within a wetland in a sandy environment. These results also depict greater rates of hydraulic conductivity, erosion and desiccation within coarse-textured soils than fmer textured soils. Low levels of fertility can also be attributed to the lack of fine particles present in the soils of the Craigiebum microcatchment wetland. Results of the modelling exercises that investigate the likely hydrological effects of a variety of land uses within the Craigiebum microcatchment verify accepted hydrological theory, as they highlight that more impervious areas produce more stormflow and lose more water to evaporation, and that the natural vegetation of the area contributes to streamflow regulation more than other land uses do. The exercises performed at the scale of the Sand River catchment do not provide conclusive evidence of the effects of changes in wetland extent, as the hydrological effects that other land uses in the area have appear to override the effects of the simulated wetland areas. Analysis of the sociological data captured highlights the great extent to which the local community depends on the Craigieburn wetland resources for a variety of livelihood strategies. Furthermore it illustrates the degree to which a reduction in wetland health negatively impacts upon the community. Viewed in conjunction, the hydrological, biophysical and sociological results highlight the degree to which changes in one aspect of the environment affect other aspects thereof, thereby highlighting the degree to which these aspects of the Craigieburn microcatchment are inextricably linked.
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