Title page for ETD etd-01232008-114045

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Schwirzer, Anna-Maria
URN etd-01232008-114045
Document Title Geomorphic attributes of palustrine wetlands in the upper Boesmans river catchment, KwaZulu-Natal
Degree MA(Geography)
Department Geography, Geo-Informatics and Meteorology
Advisor Name Title
Prof P D Sumner Supervisor
  • Kwa-Zulu-Natal Drakensberg
  • Giants Castle game reserve
  • water purification wetland vegetation
  • low flow
  • palustrine wetlands
  • geomorphic attributes
  • wetland classification
  • sediment traps
  • water storage
Date 2007-09-05
Availability unrestricted

Wetlands within South Africa are an important source of water and nutrients necessary for biological productivity and often the survival of the local people. In a country where the rural communities depend on wetlands for their day to day provision of water, food and materials it has become necessary to understand the functions within wetland systems, so that proper conservation measures can be applied in order to protect and ensure the sustainable use of wetlands. Due to the fact that South Africa has a semi arid climate, thereby affecting the availability of water it is sensible that studies are under-taken in which, more is explored about the water resources, the protection as well as the sustainable use of the wetlands within the region. Despite the fact that the total area which wetlands cover in South Africa is relatively small, the functions which they provide is of fundamental magnitude not only to wildlife but also as an essential part of the human life support system.

Wetlands have the ability to regulate regional flow regimes and are often situated in areas of impeded drainage, which may contribute to the regulation of water. It is thus plausible that if headwater/palustrine wetlands are destroyed, many of the streams and rivers which under normal circumstance are perennial, would not only become non- perennial but the consequence of a drought would be far more severe, as well as increasing the risk in flood damage further down the river.

In Giants Castle Game Reserve, situated in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, several palustrine wetlands where studied to identify the geomorphic attributes which contribute to the origin and maintenance of these wetlands. An added motive for the study was the fact that, according to Ramsar, one of the reasons for conserving the Drakensberg wetlands is to ensure the maintenance and production of water quality to KwaZulu-Natal. Seven wetlands within the Boesmans river upper catchment were identified and studied.

Soil investigations were undertaken in an effort to determine the driving forces behind the origin and maintenance, as well as to improve the understanding relating to the functioning of the wetlands. The geomorphic attributes which were identified as being important to the genesis and maintenance of wetlands were found to be the following: low relief, soil piping within wetlands, sediment trapping ability of wetlands, the surface roughness of wetlands, channeling within wetlands, organic matter accumulation as well as geological barriers within wetland system. The adaptability of Longmore’s (2001) Hydro-Geomorphic classification to different catchment areas was also tested and was found suitable for these wetlands, although the influence of piping on wetlands evidently requires further investigation and incorporation into classifications.

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