Department of Science & Technology
 National Research Foundation
All news

GC Conference at UKZN Featuring Presentations on Essential Freshwater Ecosystems

November 30, 2016

At the upcoming 3rd biennial national Conference on Global Change, hosted by UKZN under the auspices  of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Research Foundation (NRF), the Aquatic

Ecosystems Research programme based at the university’s Pietermaritzburg campus will be presenting a range of research project outcomes related to the health of freshwater ecosystems in KwaZulu-Natal and throughout Africa.

Research group leader Dr Gordon O’Brien and three programme members/students will be presenting at the conference. O’Brien will present best practice holistic, regional scale ecological risk principles for water resource management in the context of multiple stressors, from pollution and water abstraction, to the effect of barriers to fish migration, like dams. ‘Recent rapid increases in water resource developments throughout Africa has resulted in widespread ecological impacts with associated socioeconomic consequences,’ said O’Brien. Impacts that we need to understand and manage. ‘We need to understand these ecosystems and how they are being affected by multiple stressors, because the environment does allot for us without us needing to pay for it, at least until its services are gone or impaired, that’s when we realise the value of these services.’

The group has driven the development of regional scale environmental flow frameworks and an assessment tool for E-flow assessments called PROBFLO which has been used in Lesotho, the Nile Basin, soon to be tested in the Mekong, Zambezi and Colorado River Basins.

South Africa’s freshwater systems are a vital part of the water—scarce landscape, and with the recent  drought, the public’s attention is on these unique systems. Student presentations will focus on the health of estuarine systems threatened by the poor water quality, reduced flows and habitat alterations originating from land use activities and changes in climatic conditions, and the use of analytical tools to assess the health of degraded catchments. There is also a presentation on working to understand eels as indicators of ecological changes to their habitats, and to monitor their distribution.

By placing increased value on, and understanding these systems better, these researchers hope stressed water resources and their inhabitants will be better cared for. The Global Change Conference, funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation, is part of the Global Change Grand Challenge (GCGC), now in its 6th year of implementation. The GCGC is the foundation of encouraging production of new knowledge and information in South Africa to face key grand challenges, including understanding a changing planet, reducing the human footprint, adapting the way we live, and innovation for sustainability.

Christine Cuénod;

Contact Webmaster | View the Promotion of Access to Information Act | View our Privacy Policy
© University of KwaZulu-Natal: All Rights Reserved