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Mapping of water-related ecosystem services in the uMngeni catchment using a daily time-step hydrological model for prioritisation of ecological infrastructure investment – Part 2: Outputs

C.J. Hughes, G de Winnaar, R.E. Schulze, M Mander, G.P.W. Jewitt


South Africa is a semi-arid country which frequently faces water shortages, and experienced a severe drought in the 2016 and 2017 rainfall seasons. Government is under pressure to continue to deliver clean water to the growing population at a high assurance of supply. Studies now show that the delivery of water may be sustained not only through built infrastructure such as dams and pipelines, but also through investment in ecological infrastructure (EI). Part 1 of this paper in 2 parts concentrated on the role of EI in delivering water-related ecosystem services, as well as the motivation for this study, and the methods used in modelling and mapping the catchment. Part 2 explores and illustrates the current level of delivery of water-related ecosystem services in different parts of the catchment, with potential hydrological benefits of rehabilitation and protection of EI in the uMngeni catchment. The Mpendle, Lions River, Karkloof, Inanda and Durban sub-catchments are important areas for the generation of streamflows which accumulate downstream (i.e. water yield in the catchment) when annual totals are considered. Modelled annual sediment yield (in tonnes) from naturally vegetated areas is most severe in the lower catchment areas with steeper slopes such as Inanda, and in the high-altitude areas which have both steeper slopes and higher rainfall. The central and eastern parts of the uMngeni catchment were found to contribute the greatest yield of sediment from degraded areas with low protective vegetation cover. This combined modelling and mapping exercise highlighted areas of priority ecosystem service delivery, such as higher altitude grassland areas, which could be recommended for formal conservation, or protection under private partnerships. Generally, these areas confirm the intuitive sense of catchment stakeholders, but provide a robust and more defendable analysis through which water volumes are quantifiable, and potential investment into catchment interventions are justified.

Keywords: water, ecosystem services, hydrological modelling, ecological infrastructure, rehabilitation

AJOL African Journals Online