The ecological integrity of the Lower Olifants River, Limpopo province, South Africa: 2009–2015 – Part A: Olifants River main stem
The major rivers of the South African ‘Lowveld’ (low-latitude savanna) suffer numerous impacts from upstream economic activities. Whereas monitoring these rivers is required to detect biodiversity losses, record pollution events and devise mitigation strategies, current monitoring programmes are inadequate. In 2009, the South African Earth Observation Network initiated an intensive long-term research programme on the Lowveld reaches of the Olifants River. Physico-chemical parameters, aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish abundances were recorded at four Lowveld sites in the Olifants River. We review six years of this programme. The results suggest deterioration in the ecological condition of the Olifants River with no discernible improvement through protected areas. Trends could not be detected. The parameters measured, sampling methods and/or sampling frequency might be responsible for the limited trends observed, or alternatively the results simply reflect stable conditions despite on-going pollution. Real time monitoring and an expansion in the parameters monitored would add value to the monitoring programme.
Keywords: aquatic macroinvertebrates, freshwater fish, long-term biomonitoring, Lowveld, river health, water quality