SADC-GMI implements the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) and Biodiversity in the Khakea/Bray Transboundary Aquifer
Farai Dondofema Fyke net sampling fish populations (Photo taken by H. Dovorogwa)
Groundwater plays an important role in sustaining below-ground and above-ground aquatic ecosystems. However, there is limited data that demonstrates the relationship between groundwater and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) to inform the sustainable management of the GDEs. Biodiversity data specific for Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems is hardly available in the SADC region. There is a knowledge gap in the understanding of the dynamics of the integrity/sustainability of the GDEs and the variations in the Groundwater systems.
In Southern Africa, little research has been undertaken to delineate GDEs, assess their interactions with groundwater, or understand the impacts of anthropogenic changes to the groundwater systems. There is also a lack of biodiversity data specific to GDEs, as well as a lack of joint management of the transboundary aquifers in Southern Africa.
Through funding from the Biodiversity Foundation (JRS), SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) in collaboration with their partners at the Aquatic Systems Research Group (ASRG) at the University of Venda and the Institute for Groundwater Studies University of the Free State are implementing the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) and Biodiversity in the Khakea/Bray Transboundary Aquifer project. The project is aimed at defining the relationships between groundwater quality, groundwater levels, and the biodiversity in this TBA and ultimately encourage joint management of this and other transboundary ecosystems in the SADC region.
The Khakea/Bray Transboundary Aquifer is shared between Botswana and South Africa, and known for agriculture and domestic use, activities which threaten the sustainability of its Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems. The project integrates Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing, hydrogeology, and ecology to generate data on the biodiversity of the Khakea/Bray TBA and develop a database linking groundwater information to ecological health. The new database will be linked to the SADC Groundwater Information Portal, better known as the “SADC-GIP”. This will provide a much needed platform/ tool for querying the interaction of GDEs and Groundwater environment and to incorporate GDEs water requirements in allocations for groundwater use.
Dr. Tatenda Dalu using Electrofisher to sample fish populations (Photo by Farai Dondofema)
The project will delineate the Khakea/Bray TBA and its GDEs using GIS and remote sensing, investigations will be conducted on each identified GDE. Data will be collected on hydrogeology and groundwater and surface water biodiversity, and an ecological assessment of each GDE will be performed. The collected data will be used to better understand the relationship between groundwater and surface water ecosystems and identify hotspots where management interventions should be focused.
As part of the project, seven postgraduate students (3 PhD and 4 MSC) have been recruited to pursue their studies under the project and under the leadership of the key experts in the project. SADC-GMI is utilising this project to plough back to the communities by empowering young professionals who are eager to further their studies within the groundwater fraternity.
In view of the research objectives and intended results, it is important to acknowledge the nexus between gender and biodiversity and its influence on management interventions that this research will propose. Therefore, identifying the different needs, knowledge capacities, particularly indigenous knowledge, and vulnerabilities of men, women and other vulnerable groups such persons with disability will ensure that this research proposes management interventions for biodiversity, groundwater and ecosystems which are more sustainable and aligned with the different needs and priorities of the different groups in the TBA.
Since the inception of the project in August 2020, literature review in hydrogeology, biodiversity and mapping have been completed including the compilation of an inception report that outlines strategies and the workplan and stakeholder engagement for the project. A preliminary hydrogeological working boundary for the Khakea/Bray TBA was delineated using basic geology and hydrogeological data. The boundary will be refined during the course of the study leading to a conceptual model of the TBA, and planning is being made for future field hydrogeology studies.
The literature review revealed that there is very little socio economic and demographic data available for some catchment communities such as Tosca and Pomfret in the North West Province of South Africa, and these data gaps will be addressed during field visits in subsequent project phases.
The following activities are planned for the project:
- Maps of the TBA and the GDEs.
- A hydrogeological model of the TBA.
- A comprehensive species list for all GDEs in the aquifer.
- A biodiversity database available on the SADC Groundwater Information Portal.
- Final reports for hydrogeology, biodiversity, and GIS mapping.
- Management plans for the identified hotspot GDEs.
- Seven post-graduate theses submissions.
Section of the Nelsvle Nature Reserve (Photo by Tatenda Dalu)
The three-year project is scheduled to end in 2023.
Please visit the project webpage for more information on the project: https://jrsbiodiversity.org/grants/sadcgmi2020/