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Accueil du site → Doctorat → Afrique du Sud → 2004 → An assessment protocol for water quality integrity and management of the Nyl River wetland system.

University of Johannesburg (2004)

An assessment protocol for water quality integrity and management of the Nyl River wetland system.

Greenfield, Richard

Titre  : An assessment protocol for water quality integrity and management of the Nyl River wetland system.

Auteur : Greenfield, Richard

Université de soutenance : University of Johannesburg


The Nyl River floodplain is one of the jewels in the arid Limpopo Province. The conservation and protection thereof is thus vitally important. The Nyl River Floodplain is an ephemeral floodplain and the largest of its type in South Africa. The wetland is a Ramsar site and provides habitat for a number of endangered species of birds and animals. The aims of this project were to (1) assess the water and sediment quality in the Nyl River system, (2) to determine baseline levels of pollution, (3) to develop a rapid wetland assessment protocol for biomonitoring and (4) to provide a framework for wetland management. Eighteen sites in the Groot Nyl and Klein Nyl rivers, as well as in some of the larger tributaries were selected. Water and sediment were sampled and analyzed to determine metal and nutrient levels. Bacterial analysis also took place at five of the sites along the course of the system. The results obtained from the water analysis indicate that bacterial levels in the system are cause for concern. Although metal levels in the water and the sediment are higher than Target Water Quality and Sediment Guideline Ranges, the metal levels remained relatively constant throughout the system. The metal levels indicated that they pose no potential threat to the system. The comparison between the present and historical ecological state indicated that nutrient levels are increasing in the system. The levels of toxic ammonia did not increase and thus the water quality in the system can thus be classified as fair. The sequential extraction of the sediment indicated that the majority of the metals in the sediment are not readily bioavailable. They were released by the fourth and fifth fractions and will only become available in the presence of strong reducing or oxidizing agents. Organic contaminant levels were also analysed in the sediment. The results indicated traces of PCB’s (Poly-chlorinated Biphenyls) and pyrethroids (Cypermethrin), but concentrations were too low to quantify. iii The third aim of the project was to develop a Wetland Assessment Protocol. A draft version of the protocol was developed using a modified version of the South African Scoring System version 5 (SASS5). Due to the lack of biotopes in the system, the vegetation biotope was chose as sampling habitat. Aquatic invertebrates were collected and a total score was given to each sampling site. The total site rating was determined using a combination of the SASS5 scoring system, a newly developed habitat assessment system and a human impact assessment system, The Wetland assessment protocol identified changes in water quality, but more refinement is required on a system with a greater pollution gradient. The fourth aim of the project was to set up a draft framework for wetland management. The framework is based on the National Estuary Programme of the USEPA. It has been interpreted and adapted for use in wetlands, in a similar way to which USEPA ecological risk assessment guidelines have been adapted for the South African scenario. This research project was thus able to (1) provide baseline values for the Nyl River System, (2) to produce a first draft of a Wetland Assessment Protocol and (3) provide a framework for wetland management. It is envisaged that the information in this thesis will provide useful information in the protection and management of the Nyl River.

Mots clés : met al wastes, wetland ecology, wetland management, Nyl River (South Africa)


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