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Rhodes University (2019)

A combined modelling approach for simulating channel–wetland exchanges in large African river basins

Makungu, Eunice J

Titre : A combined modelling approach for simulating channel–wetland exchanges in large African river basins

Auteur : Makungu, Eunice J

Université de soutenance : Rhodes University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2019

Résumé partiel
In Africa, many large and extensive wetlands are hydrologically connected to rivers, and their environmental integrity, as well as their influence on downstream flow regimes, depends on the prevailing channel–wetland exchange processes. These processes are inherently complex and vary spatially and temporally. Understanding channel–wetland exchanges is therefore, indispensable for the effective management of wetlands and the associated river basins. However, this information is limited in most of the river basins containing large wetlands in Africa. Furthermore, it is important to understand the links between upstream and downstream flow regimes and the wetland dynamics themselves, specifically where there are water resource developments that may affect these links (upstream developments), or be affected by them (downstream developments). Hydrological modelling of the entire basin using basin-scale models that include wetland components in their structures can be used to provide the information required to manage water resources in such basins. However, the level of detail of wetland processes included in many basin-scale models is typically very low and the lack of understanding of the wetland dynamics makes it difficult to quantify the relevant parameters. Detailed hydraulic models represent the channel-wetland exchanges in a much more explicit manner, but require relatively more data and time resources to establish than coarser scale hydrological models. The main objective of this study was, therefore, to investigate the use of a detailed hydraulic wetland model to provide a better understanding of channel–wetland exchanges and wetland dynamics, and to use the results to improve the parameterisation of a basin-scale model. The study focused on improving the water resource assessments modelling of three data-scarce African river basins that contain large wetlands : the floodplains of the Luangwa and Upper Zambezi River basins and the Usangu wetland in the Upper Great Ruaha River basin. The overall objective was achieved through a combined modelling approach that uses a detailed high-resolution LISFLOOD-FP hydraulic model to inform the structure and parameters of the GW Pitman monthly hydrological model. The results from the LISFLOOD-FP were used to improve the understanding of the channel–wetland exchange dynamics and to establish the wetland parameters required in the GW Pitman model. While some wetland parameters were directly quantified from the LISFLOOD-FP model results, others, which are highly empirical, were estimated by manually calibrating the GW Pitman wetland sub-model implemented in excel spreadsheets containing the LISFLOOD-FP model results. Finally, the GW Pitman model with the inclusion of the estimated wetland parameters was applied for each basin and the results compared to the available downstream observed flow data

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