Diversion of water flow from a floodplain wetland stream: an analysis of geomorphological setting and hydrological and ecological consequences
2003 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Management, ISSN 0301-4797, E-ISSN 1095-8630, Vol. 68, no 1, 51-71 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Diversion of water has been ongoing in the Mkuze Wetland for several decades. Two canals form the focus of this study; the Mpempe–Demazane Canal and the Tshanetshe Canal. The former involved an ambitious excavation over a distance of 13.5 km in the lower part of the wetland, while the latter was a minor excavation over a distance of approximately 100 m in the upper part of the wetland. Although ambitious and costly, the Mpempe–Demazane Canal resulted in little downward or headward erosion, and there was minor diversion of flow. However, the minor excavation of the Tshanetshe Canal resulted in erosion downstream of the xcavation (the Tshanetshe Stream), downward and lateral erosion of the excavated section, and headward erosion that has propagated almost 4 km upstream along the Mkuze River. Most of the flow of the Mkuze River has been captured by the Tshanetshe Canal and Stream. The impact of canalisation on floodplain wetlands is thus more dependent on the location than the scale of activity. The avulsion of the Mkuze River into the Tshanetshe Canal and Stream is due to a large difference in elevation between the Mkuze River and floodplain into which it was diverted, and the fact that in this region the river typically has high discharges. This avulsion may have been inevitable as a result of natural processes of sedimentation. In contrast, the difference in elevation between the Mkuze River and the basin into which it was diverted via the Mpempe Canal was small as is discharge of the Mkuze River in this part of the wetland. Thus, the diversion was unsuccessful. The presence of hippos that create hydraulically efficient pathways that are oriented parallel to the regional hydraulic slope, may accelerate avulsion in large African wetlands. Overall, it is argued that the environmental consequences of excavation need to be viewed against the background that wetlands are dynamic features within the landscape.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2003. Vol. 68, no 1, 51-71 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-86252DOI: 10.1016/S0301-4797(03)00002-1ISI: 000183565500005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-86252DiVA: diva2:586540