Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Floodplains expert to train African environment managers

28.01.2002


The delicate balance of life and death in Africa is nowhere more evident than on the banks of the continent`s mighty rivers. Rural communities depend on the rich silt brought down by rivers for farming but they are also at risk of devastating floods, as are urban dwellers in informal settlements that are often built on floodplains.



Dr Sue Marriott, reader in earth sciences at UWE`s Faculty of the Built Environment, is setting off this month to help with training environmental managers in floodplain management and river rehabilitation. The particular focus of the training will be the effects of the Jozini Dam on the Pongola floodplain, in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal.

"The dam was built in the 1970s with the idea of irrigating farmland," said Dr Marriott, "but the dam stopped flows of nutrient-rich sediment that agriculture depends on and has changed the ecology of the whole area.


"Also, large African rivers like the Pongola cross national boundaries - a large tributary of the Pongola rises in Swaziland, and the river crosses Mozambique before it flows to the Indian Ocean.

"This means that the actions of one country - building a dam, for example - can have important knock-on effects in neighbouring countries up or downstream. Regular small floods, which scour out the valley, and replenish stocks of fish in floodplain ponds, have ceased. But the dam doesn`t prevent the occasional severe flood which leads to devastating erosion of the river basin."

Sue will be based for six months as visiting professor at the University of Natal. As well as conducting fieldwork, she will be involved in setting up graduate courses in floodplain and river management at the University`s Centre for Environment and Development. Students will learn techniques for interpreting environmental change from floodplain sediment samples so they can make judgements on how best to manage the floodplain. She will also help design short courses on river and floodplain management that can be taken in module form by local trainee environmental managers. Finally, Sue will help set up a demonstration project for urban river rehabilitation on one of the tributaries of the River mSunduze at Pietermaritzburg.

A chartered geologist, Sue has an extensive knowledge of floodplain processes, and emphasises how much can be learnt - about the environment and even climate change - from floodplain sediment.

"We can detect contaminants and study how they get into the foodchain - for example, shellfish in estuaries are known to ingest metals from polluted sediment. Floodplain sediment also contains a record of environmental change and can be very useful in identifying the effects of changes in climate."

Her experience of African rivers goes back to an earlier three-year link starting in 1998 and funded by the British Council. It continued with a long field trip last summer, when she was involved with colleagues from UWE and the Universities of Plymouth and Swansea, in an expedition led by Dr Andrew Plater of the University of Liverpool, to study the history of the Mkuze floodplain also in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

"There is rising environmental awareness of the vital role of floodplains," she commented. "This applies not just to southern Africa, of course, but in Britain too, where floodplains have largely lost their natural function of storing floodwater due to development and changes in agricultural practices."

Julia Weston | alphagalileo

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>