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Water Research Commission of South Africa (WRC) launches guideline for determining buffer zones of rivers, wetlands and estuaries  
Buffer zones are used in land-use planning to protect natural resources and limit the impact of one land-use on another. It is for this reason that a newly published WRC project report specifically looks at aquatic buffer zones, which are typically designed to act as a barrier between human activities and sensitive water resources thereby protecting them from adverse negative impacts.

The report, entitled, Preliminary guideline for the determination of buffer zones for rivers, wetlands and estuaries, was launched as part of World Wetlands Day celebrations at an international workshop to disseminate citizen science tools for improved water resource management, held in Pietermaritzburg from 11-12 February 2016.

The WRC report provides users with tools and principles for determining and maintaining appropriate buffer zones:

  • Regulating aquatic impact buffer zones
  • Aquatic impact buffer zone demarcation
  • Aspects that may require the expansion of the aquatic impact buffer zone
  • Maintenance of supporting mitigation measures
  • Buffer zones in urban areas
  • Rehabilitation or enhancement of buffer zones
  • Buffer zones and climate change

Launching the report, Mr Ian Bredin of the Institute of Natural Resources stated that various studies have shown that larger buffers are required for the protection of biodiversity that is dependent on a water resource, in comparison to those adequate for providing water quality protection.  Many aquatic and semi-aquatic species depend on water resources for only portions of their life cycles, and require terrestrial habitats adjacent to the water resources to meet all their life needs. Without access to appropriate terrestrial habitat and the opportunity to move safely between habitats across a landscape, it will not be possible to maintain viable populations of many species. Therefore, core habitats and corridors need to be developed for the protection of species or habitats of conservation concern.

“These guidelines are highly sought after by the Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Environmental Affairs (as the focal point for the Ramsar Convention in South Africa), Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and many other conservation authorities”, said Mr Bonani Madikizela, the WRC Research Manager responsible for the study. “They will apply them in licensing of developments around wetlands in order to ensure their protection as a source of livelihoods.”  

Currently, the WRC serves as the contact point for the Ramsar Convention’s technical review panel. Various members of the citizen science community, composed of non-governmental organizations, government officials, training institutions, farmers and independent research consultancies, attended the launch and witnessed the demonstration of citizen science water quality monitoring tools in the uMngeni Basin, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

A second phase to the project will include providing practitioners with an opportunity to learn how to use the Buffer Zone Tools developed, which will in turn allow for the refinement of the preliminary guideline document and Buffer Zone Tools to produce a scientifically sound and well-tested approach to determining buffer zones.

Download from the WRC Knowledge Hub www.wrc.org.za: Report no. TT 610/14 'Preliminary guideline for the determination of buffer zones for rivers, wetlands and estuaries'.  For further information contact Mr Bonani Madikizela, email: bonanim@wrc.org.za cell: +0832907238



Mr Ian Bredin , Institute of Natural Resources
Picture from left : Dr Mark Graham  (GroundTruth) Mr Skhumbuzo Kubheka ( KZN Wildlife ),  Mr  Bonani Madikizela ( Water Research Commission ), Mr Edwin Hes (UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands)  ,  Dr Jim Taylor , ( WESSA) , Mrs Hlengiwe Cele , Water Research Commission, Ms Jacqueline Mboroki (Water Resources Management Authority, Kenya) and Ian Bredin (Institute of  Natural Resources).


Field trip to Cascades Wetland
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