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Research: KSA 2

(KSA 2) Water-Linked Ecosystems

Scope

The KSA research portfolio is structured around five (5) thrusts that address a diverse range of issues in ecosystem processes, management, rehabilitation and restoration, utilization, and ecosystems and global change. While the KSA will implement more than 50 projects in the 2014/15 financial year, 20 of these will be new projects starting on 1 April 2014. The portfolio has projects with both public and private research institutions.

The implementation of the strategy is focused on addressing a wider scope of R&D issues relating to water and the ecosystems that our people and economy depend on. The KSA’s new projects, to start in April 2014, will support the new strategic direction taken by the WRC, as more directed projects that will start in April 2014 are under the new thrusts and programmes. In cognisance of the complex and evolving needs of the society and communities that the KSA’s R&D serves, it was necessary for KSA 2 to adapt its portfolio in order to remain relevant and appropriate. The five-year research strategy has been crafted to support and advance the WRC key objectives articulated in the Knowledge Tree, national legislation, national strategies and priorities and Government Outcomes, South Africa’s international obligations, new scientific trends, and other stakeholders’ views and needs. The KSA seeks to extend more of its R&D output to the broader South African society, in order to capacitate all stakeholders in making knowledge-based decisions that encourage protection and sustainable use of ecosystems. The KSA will continue to explore different avenues and opportunities that R&D outputs provide to enhance ecosystem goods and services (natural capital). The WRC Knowledge Tree advocates the production of new products and services and the promotion of sustainable solutions from R&D. To advance these objectives, the KSA will continue to assist researchers and communities to utilise the WRC’s R&D outputs to create new products and services and thus create new markets and industries. This is important in South Africa and Africa because there are natural resources in our ecosystems that are factors of endowment, which through research and development can be used to create new jobs and markets.

 Objectives

The main objective is the provision of knowledge to enable good environmental governance that support sustainable utilisation and protection of aquatic ecosystems; and to develop an understanding of the ecological processes underlying the delivery of goods and services from water-linked ecosystems.

This will be achieved through the following aims:

·      Develop an understanding of the ecological processes underlying the delivery of goods and services

·      Develop the knowledge to sustainably manage, protect and utilise aquatic ecosystems

·     Transfer the knowledge to appropriate end-users through the development of innovative tools and methods for effective knowledge dissemination

·     Promote action research that capacitates women, the disabled and youth as key role-players in the research projects

·    Identification and support of community R&D initiatives that advance suitable water resource (ecosystem) utilisation

·    Joint partnerships between communities, local and national Government and corporate business to advance sustainable ecosystem use and development 

·      R&D SMME support

·      To support the WRC Lighthouses as vehicles for knowledge dissemination and transfer, most notably, the Green Village Lighthouse and the Climate Change Lighthouse

 

Video Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPY7onCGFxw

   Overview of Thrusts and Programmes

 

THRUST 1: ECOSYSTEM PROCESSES

Scope: This thrust includes research addressing the biophysical processes, form and function of ecosystems. This understanding will assist those managing the resource (water services, crop and aquaculture, biodiversity, etc.) to maximise socio-economic benefits in a sustainable manner. The aim is to generate knowledge that informs policy and management.

Programme 1:

River, wetland,  groundwater and dam processes

 

Scope: Programmes to investigate the ecosystem functioning, structure and processes of riparian zones, rivers and impoundments will be developed. This is an area in which South Africa needs improved capability to manage and, in the case of riparian zones, is a topic attracting international interest.

Programme 2:

Estuarine, coastal and marine processes

 

Scope:  Estuarine, coastal and marine systems are fragile, while they are highly productive ecosystems and are highly sought after as places to live and establish various enterprises. Catchment activities and land uses affect terrestrial water resources and ultimately the estuarine environment, while marine water conditions also have an impact on the estuarine environment and ecosystems. Projects in this programme will generate knowledge about the ecological processes, structure, and functions of ecosystems of these systems. The programme will also address the impact of land uses and marine conditions on ecological processes in the estuarine and coastal environment.

Programme 3:

Aquatic, riparian and land connectivity

 

Scope: Research will be conducted to develop understanding of the interconnections among various ecosystems and ecological processes and functions of water resources, terrestrial systems (soil, air and vegetation) and to assess their value to both the catchment and people.

Programme 4:

Surface and groundwater Interactions

 

Scope: Within this programme, the dynamics of groundwater-dependent ecosystems will be investigated in relation to the aquifers on which they depend. This will be related to exploitation of the groundwater. Special attention will be given to the vulnerability of these systems.

 


 


 

THRUST 2: ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT AND UTILISATION

Scope: This thrust includes research which specifically addresses the management of ecosystems for sustainable utilisation and provision of the ecosystem benefits that people depend on. Central to this is the need to manage the social and economic requirements of society from ecosystems and the implementation of policy and legislation.  Support will be provided in building the capacity to implement the research findings.

Programme 1:

Ecological Reserve

Scope: Research in this programme will be conducted to develop and refine methods for determining and operationalizing the ecological Reserve as required by the NWA. The programme will address the more strategic issues, such as the development of new and improved methods, as well as the shorter-term issues, such as implementation of the Reserve. This programme is managed in close association with DWA.

Programme 2:

Rivers, wetlands,  groundwater, lakes,  coastal and marine (and estuarine) ecosystems

Scope: Within this programme research will be conducted to develop an understanding of the effect of anthropogenic disturbance on aquatic ecosystems in various water resources. This understanding is then conveyed to stakeholders (tiers of Government, communities) as management guidelines to inform them on how to manage water resources sustainably.

Programme 3:

Land-use and aquatic ecosystem management

 

Scope: This programme focuses on enhancing understanding of the effect of human interventions (land uses and decision making) on the environmental health of various water resources and/or ecosystems. As such the programme covers all water resource types, hence the inclusive name of National Aquatic Ecosystem Health Monitoring Programme is used, whereas the name River Health Programme focuses only on rivers.

Programme 4:

Integrated environmental   and drinking water quality

 

Scope: Within this programme research will be conducted to develop integrated methods and procedures which will be employed to protect people and the environment from the effects of poor water quality. The programme will develop methods and competence to support issuing of licences for water or ecosystem use. This will promote the use of research knowledge in managing environmental water quality as required in the ecological Reserve, and thus reduce drinking water treatment costs.

Programme 5:

Ecosystem risks and disaster management

 

Scope:  Environmental risk management programmes will be supported by research from this portfolio. Risk assessment methodologies and procedures will be developed and improved. The research will develop knowledge needed for environmental risk mitigation and adaptation. Tools and procedures will be assessed with the intention of developing them. The success of the programme will be achieved by working closely with water resource managers and relevant government departments.

Programme 6:

Biodiversity and  conservation

 

Scope: The overall objective of this programme is to develop and integrate knowledge needed by the country in efforts for protecting and preserving our unique biodiversity and natural landscapes. The projects will look at drivers (sociological, political and economic) that are critical in developing the understanding and competence necessary to sustainably manage the aquatic environment and its biodiversity. Collaboration and partnership with other institutions will be considered for this programme to achieve its aim.

Programme 7:

Ecosystem governance, legal framework and ethics

 

 Scope:  Implementation of research outputs and regulations require appropriate governance systems and structures. The overall objective of this programme is to develop understanding of what is required for the successful governance of aquatic ecosystems and how to build the necessary capacity to implement this.  The research under this programme should develop knowledge needed for good governance of water resources. The research will develop knowledge needed to support policy, planning and development that promote protection of ecosystems and water resources.

Programme 8:

Transboundary ecosystem management

 

This programme will support projects that enhance ecosystem processes and functions, conservation and planning across regional and national borders. Transboundary research has gained some interest in recent years, and neighbouring countries or catchments will have to manage shared natural capital in an integrated manner. Collaborations with neighbouring countries and international funding agencies will be considered for research under this programme.

 

 

THRUST 3: ECOSYSTEM REHABILITATION,  REMEDIATION AND RESTORATION

Scope:   This thrust addresses the rehabilitation, restoration and remediation of the aquatic environment (including both the abiotic and the biotic components) which has been degraded through anthropogenic activities, with the view to restoring, as far as possible, process, form and function in order to provide the stream of goods and services that a healthy aquatic ecosystem should provide. This will be done in terms of both relevant international conventions and national legislation, and seeks to restore biodiversity where possible.  Support will be provided in building the capacity to implement the research findings. Remediation is the only addition to this portfolio. This is proposed to encourage innovative approaches that can be used in rehabilitation and restoration of water resources and their ecosystems. Research in this thrust will be carried out in collaboration with key stakeholders.

Programme 1:

Rivers, wetlands, coastal and estuarine systems, and lakes (dams)

Scope:  The research conducted within this programme aims to provide protocols for the rehabilitation of rivers and impoundments, with the emphasis on urban rivers and the impoundments that they feed, that have been degraded as a result of anthropogenic activities or invasive biota.

Programme 2:

Socio-economic  dynamics

 

Scope:  The overall objective of this programme is to develop and integrate knowledge on the sociological and economic aspects of water-linked ecosystems with ecological knowledge, in order to develop the understanding and competence necessary to sustainably manage the aquatic environment.

Programme 3:

Environmental risk management

Scope:  Environmental risk management programmes will be supported by research from this portfolio. Risk assessment methodologies and procedures will be developed and improved. The research will develop knowledge needed for environmental risk mitigation and adaptation.

THRUST 4:  SUSTAINABLE ECOSYTEM UTILISATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Scope:  This research portfolio investigates issues relating to ecosystem goods and services. The research addresses the management of ecosystems for sustainable utilisation for the provision of the ecosystem benefits that people depend on. Central to this is the need to ensure that individuals and communities derive benefits (social, economic, and environmental) from ecosystems. Support will be provided in building the capacity to implement and apply the research findings. The projects in this thrust will develop innovations and knowledge that demonstrate the actual value of ecosystems to people’s livelihoods, well-being, and business sustainability.

Programme 1:

Environmental  economics (goods & services)  and accounting

 

Scope:  The overall objective of this programme is to develop and integrate knowledge on the sociological and economic aspects of water-linked ecosystems with ecological knowledge, in order to develop the understanding and competence necessary to sustainably manage the aquatic environment. This programme investigates ways to evaluate economic benefits of ecosystem products (goods and services). Appropriate methods and their implementation to local conditions will be promoted by research in this programme. The economic opportunities that are presented by ecosystems will be evaluated so that they can be appropriately developed. Different evaluation and accounting methods and tools will be developed and adapted to local conditions.

 

Programme 2:  

Ecosystem value-chain and  markets

 

Scope: Research in this programme will develop knowledge about developing and strengthening markets for ecosystem goods and services. The research will cover the whole value chain of the ecosystem services’ market. There is a growing interest in developing markets for ecosystem services to support local economies in rural and peri-urban areas. The development of tools or procedures to promote payment for goods and services needs to be further developed and implemented appropriately. Product development for various markets will also be the focus of this programme. For instance, environment-based business opportunities should be explored and developed since different ecosystems have different products and services that they offer.

Programme 3:  

Gender, culture and  heritage for ecosystems

 

 

Scope:  In their design or implementation, natural resource management (NRM) initiatives overlook critical socio-cultural dimensions of the challenge to advance sustainability. This programme will investigate relationships and associations of gender, culture, heritage and aquatic ecosystems. The relationships and tensions related to gender, ethnicity, population, age and socio-economic status are among the threads in the larger tapestry that comprises the socio-cultural dimension in natural resource management and access to ecosystem services. The programme will also investigate ideas and innovations from indigenous knowledge systems that relate to natural resource management.

 

Programme 4:

Green economy and sustainable (green) innovations

 

Scope: People in rural and peri-urban areas rely on ecosystems for their livelihoods. The research in this programme will support economic development that does not violate the sustainability of socio-ecological processes.  Projects in this programme will encourage the production of green technologies and innovations supporting service- and commercial-based sectors.   Outputs from research should contribute to improving the lives of people while also contributing to improving the conditions of water resources and the environment as a whole. The involvement of the business sector and other individual companies will be sought to fast-track implementation of the research output.  The projects will contribute to the Water–Energy–Food Nexus Lighthouse of the WRC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THRUST 5:  ECOSYSTEMS AND GLOBAL CHANGE

Scope:   This thrust will address research to improve our understanding of the connectivity between land, water, atmosphere and people. Any change in the environment may have an impact on every other environmental factor and this impact should be assessed to be able to quantify the risks and to implement IWRM. This thrust will also focus on the movement of people (migration) and the response of aquatic ecosystems to these population dynamics.

Programme 1:

Ecosystems and population dynamics

 

Scope: The impact of social dynamics on ecosystems and the environment will be addressed in this programme. As human population increases, moves and changes in different areas, sociological studies in relation to ecosystems (environment) are needed to support planning and development of rural and urban areas. In most cases, informal settlements are established in the riparian zones of water resources, which exerts pressure on those resources as people demand more goods and services from those resources. In most cases, water resources such as wetlands and rivers become the only available service infrastructure for the homeless and for poor immigrants in urban and peri-urban areas.

 

Programme 2:

Ecosystems and climate change

 

Scope: This programme will deal with all aspects of climate change in relation to ecosystems. The research will develop knowledge about mitigation of and adaptation to climate change by aquatic biodiversity. The impact of climate change on ecosystem processes, functions, and structure will be given attention in this programme.  The knowledge generated will be used to inform policy makers, businesses, and water managers.

 

Programme 3:

Ecological  thresholds

Scope: Research aimed at determining ecological thresholds will be supported in this programme. These studies will assist in developing understanding about how much degradation the environment or ecosystems can tolerate before collapsing or losing resilience. The research will also analyse the costs of restoring ecosystems and their functionality after total collapse.

 

 

 

 
 
 
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