Authors: P J Oberholster, P McMillan, K Durgapersad, A R de Klerk & A M Botha

Keyword: ecosystem services


Agenda 2063: A1

The Wetland Classification and Risk Assessment Index (WCRAI) is based on manifestations of ecological processes in natural wetland ecosystems. The index is hierarchical in structure and is designed to allow identification and rapid assessment at the broadest levels by non wetland experts in different disciplines to manage natural wetlands. From previous studies, landscape ecology has demonstrated the importance of considering landscape context in addition to local site attributes when explaining wetland ecological processes and ecological integrity. The pressures that land uses and activities exert on wetlands generate impacts that affect both the biotic and abiotic characteristics of the surface water column and the surrounding riparian zone. Therefore, human-altered land in a catchment and spatial patterns of surrounding wetlands provide a direct way to measure human impacts and can be correlated with indicators such as water chemistry and biotic variables. The objective of this study was to develop and test the WCRAI so that the index can be used to classify different types of wetlands and to assess their ecological condition (also known as “Eco-status”) under different ecological conditions. The results obtained from the WCRAI were indicative of the integrity of these wetlands when compared to the status of the abiotic and biotic variables measured at each sampling site. From an economical perspective, the WCRAI can play a crucial role in preventing unnecessary degradation of wetlands, hence reducing financial loss through management, restoration, or rehabilitation efforts. The methodology can be applied very easily (due to its simplistic nature) by industry stakeholders to continually monitor these wetlands.