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Rhodes University (2019)

Seasonal trends of rainfall intensity, ground cover and sediment dynamics in the Little Pot River and Gqukunqa River catchments, South Africa

Herd-Hoare, Sean

Titre : Seasonal trends of rainfall intensity, ground cover and sediment dynamics in the Little Pot River and Gqukunqa River catchments, South Africa

Auteur : Herd-Hoare, Sean

Université de soutenance : Rhodes University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2019

Résumé partiel
Natural rangelands provide a variety of ecosystem services including livestock production which occurs on land under freehold land tenure and on land under communal tenure. There is an ongoing debate around the extent to which land degradation is occurring on these rangelands under different land management and land tenure systems and what the main degradation drivers are. Over-grazing, rainfall and soil type are key drivers of rangeland dynamics and the resultant sediment yield in the river systems, however, over-grazing is an outcome of land management while rainfall and soil type are natural drivers. This study explores the relationship between rainfall and daily sediment flux as well as the seasonal trends of vegetation cover and the study is part of a greater research effort called the Tsitsa Project which is based in the Tsitsa River catchment (near Maclear, Eastern Cape, South Africa). The Tsitsa Project aims at developing and managing both land and water in a sustainable way by improving the land, water and lives of people living in the Tsitsa River catchment. The restoration efforts of the Tstisa Project will aid in extending the lifespan of both the proposed dams on the Tsitsa River. The Tsitsa River catchment is characterised by grasslands, steep topography, highly erodible soils with many large gullies present and a very high sediment yield in the Tsitsa River which allowed for the exploration of some of the system drivers of sediment yield in this catchment. The study involved two sub-catchments of the Upper Tsitsa River catchment of different land management strategies : one dominated by commercial livestock farms (Little Pot River catchment) and one dominated by communal rangelands (Gqukunqa River catchment). The aim of this study was to determine the seasonal trends of rainfall intensity, ground cover and sediment dynamics in the Little Pot River and Gqukunqa River catchments. The purpose of the findings was to improve management strategies in degraded areas and catchments. In order to achieve this aim a variety of field and desktop methods were used. Field methods involved measuring variables including : vegetation biomass, vegetation cover, soil surface hardness, biocrust cover and slope angle for a range of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values from the Sentinel-2A sensor. The study assessed the system response of the field variables in both catchments over one rainfall season (2018-2019). Desktop methods included various NDVI analyses as well as analyses of trends and relationships between vegetation dynamics, rainfall and sediment. The relationship between erosive rainfall events, daily rainfall, antecedent rainfall and daily sediment flux was explored over the time period of January 2016 to January 2019 and October 2015 to January 2019 for the Little Pot River catchment and the Gqukunqa River catchment respectively. NDVI was explored as a proxy for vegetation cover to extrapolate across the catchments and monitoring period. NDVI was found to have a weak positive relationship with vegetation cover and biomass (R2 values ranged from 0,04 to 0,525).

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Page publiée le 18 janvier 2021