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A study of the environmental impacts (natural and anthropogenic) on the estuaries of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa : implications for management.

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This thesis documents eight estuaries that are situated on the northern coastline of KwaZulu-Natal viz.: St Lucia, Mfolozi, Zinkwazi, Mvoti, Mngeni and those of the South i.e. Isipingo, Manzimtoti and Mkomazi. The documentation is aimed at undertaking a holistic approach on estuaries of KwaZulu-Natal approximately 10% and determines the influence of anthropogenic and natural impacts upon their health status. The study has also analysed selected sample estuaries of KZN in terms of their general natural characteristics, looked at the morphological features, riparian vegetation and land use directly from site visits and from aerial photographys, and determined the influence of anthropogenic and natural impacts in the estuaries. It also assessed the health status of the estuaries, proposed appropriate management strategies and reviewed the current status of estuaries in KZN / southern Africa. The researcher employed quantitative approach as a viable and the most relevant method where a holistic approach has been used. This was achieved through the execution of various techniques. For instance, reconnaissance survey was conducted including the usage of aerial photographys and topographical maps. Data was also collected using the YSI 6920 model. The study was also undertaken in order to determine whether the KwaZulu-Natal estuaries were still having a nursery function, which appeared to be losing when considering both primary and secondary activities that took place in the catchment areas. All of these estuaries were under a severe stress and pressure through natural and anthropogenic phenomenon. They were all suffering and gradually getting contaminated and depleted through anthropogenic activities that took place uncontrolled in their catchmenmt areas. Findings also show humans as the main culprits for estuarine contamination and degradation. It was discovered that about 84.2% of the catchment areas within the study area was human occupied. Their suffering differed as it depended on the extent in which catchment areas were utilized. Where anthropogenic activities took place alarmingly, estuaries also suffered a great deal. This posed a challenge to ecologists, hydrologist and environmentalists generally, and to physical geographers specifically since they regard estuaries as very important for their nursery functions and ecological balances. Mfolozi and St Lucia estuaries were found to be little affected from direct anthropogenic effects. Pollutants accumulating in the systems may have come from farmlands in the north of the Mfolozi and from the town of St Lucia in the case of the St Lucia estuary. However, more negative effects were clearly due to excessive sedimentation. The study has revealed that the Mfolozi mouth position had been artificially relocated on several occasions since 1952 by human intervention in the system. In these situations, the Mfolozi mouth may be located between one and two kilometres south of the St-Lucia mouth. Two estuaries, Mvoti in the north and Isipingo in the south were found to be the most affected water bodies by human activities occurring in the catchment areas and this has led to them having unhealthy water status. It was found that through anthropogenic interference, there were changes in the nature of runoff and water quality that was attributed to industrial pollution, runoff from agricultural activities, sewage effluent and the runoff from urban areas. There is evidence of extremely poor catchment management practices as proved by the poor state of many estuaries along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. The study recommended that for the important future well being of these estuaries, various tiers of catchment management authority must be put in place by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The local authorities must proactively manage land uses and anthropogenic activities on and around the estuaries in order to minimise potential impacts on the systems.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2008.


Estuaries--KwaZulu-Natal--Management., Estuarine area conservation--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Geography.