River Connectivity management - Limpopo and Inkomati

Aim and scope of the project: The Kruger National Park (KNP) has five major rivers flowing through it in an easterly direction. All these rivers originate outside of KNP in South Africa with only a few small tributaries occurring entirely within the park. Unfortunately, all these rivers have been significantly impacted and altered by upstream land use activities including dam developments which result in water quality stressors, altered flow, altered habitats and invasive species. The rivers within the KNP is often referred to as rivers within a sea of dams which consequently affect river connectivity above and below the park. This project aims to increase our understanding of the importance of fish migrations and associated river connectivity in many of the rivers in the Kruger National Park. This information is urgently needed because anthropogenic threats are making these migratory fish species uncommon and some even locally extinct in this river system.

 

Client and/or collaborating stakeholders: US AID: Limpopo Resilient Waters Program, Chemonics, University of Mpumalanga, SANPARKS

 

Interesting and important outcomes/prospects: Free-flowing rivers are defined as any river that flows undisturbed from its source to its mouth without encountering any dams, weirs, or physical barriers. Such free-flowing ecosystems are known to provide multiple social, economic and conservation benefits including provisioning services, regulatory services, cultural services and supporting values. Habitat fragmentation of watercourses caused by impoundment and water control purposes is considered a global threat to aquatic biodiversity, including freshwater fishes. The rivers of KNP is an aquatic biodiversity hotspot and many of these fishes, especially the ones with migratory requirements, are rare and or already locally extinct in the Kruger National Park. Man-made structures such as weirs, sluices and barrages may impede or prevent access of individuals to essential habitats, potentially affecting the distribution, population structures, spawning success, and recruitment of many species. The connectivity of riverine ecosystems and the associated threats that affect the connectivity of populations of fishes must be considered to effectively protect important populations.

 

For more information contact: Robin.Petersen@sanparks.org