Mahomed Desai

Mahomed Desai

Mahomed Desai

PhD Student

Ichthyofauna Conservation of the uSutu-Mhlathuze Water Management Area


The uSutu-Mhlathuze Water Management Area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is an ecologically and socio-economically important area. The area contains the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first World Heritage Site and the Maputaland Centre of Endemism and Biodiversity Hotspot.
A key geographic feature of iSimangaliso is Lake St. Lucia, Africa’s largest estuarine system and is fed by several important river systems in the catchment. It is 80km long and 23km wide at its widest point and is inhabited by over 800 hippos and 1200 crocodiles as well as a diversity of aquatic birds and other fauna.
The Maputaland Centre comprises the northernmost part of the Tongaland-Pondoland Regional Mosaic. The area is typically a flat, low-level, sandy coastal plain with a maximum elevation of about 150 m except the Lebombo Mountain Range on the North-Eastern border which rises to an elevation of approximately 600 m. The climate and geology of the Maputaland Centre is diverse and heterogeneously distributed driving the development of distinct ecological zones. Associated with these zones are an exceptional diversity of vegetation types consisting of a mosaic of forest, savanna, grassland and wetlands, resulting in a concomitant diversity of associated fauna.

Considering the socio-ecological importance of the area, it is critical that effective and sustainable management of the freshwater systems that traverse it occurs. However, effective management requires a knowledge of the present wellbeing of key socio-ecological endpoints, such as the ichthyofauna community, and the possible impacts to these endpoints from continued anthropogenic influences.

The overall aim of the study is to evaluate the ecology and biology of the ichthyofauna community of the water managemnet area in response to environmental characteristics. In order to achieve this aim, several objectives will be undertaken as follows:

  • Describe the ichthyofauna community structure in the study area and its response to environmental characteristic variability;
  • Determine the location and environmental requirements in terms of habitat and water quality of cryptic and/or rare species;
  • Determine the feeding biology and the condition of populations of selected species in the study area;
  • Evaluate the population dynamics of selected species in the study area;
  • DNA barcode the ichthyofauna species occuring within the study area; and
  • Evaluate the migration and geneflow of selected species in the study area.

The outcome of the project will be to inform on the fish species conservation and ultimately ecosystem management and protection for the study area.

An additional project includes aiding in management and reporting of the KwaZulu-Natal River EcoStatus Monitoring Programme (REMP)

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