Researcher: Andrea WolfRegion: Okavango Delta, Botswana
BackgroundThere is an urgent need to understand how the environment ischanging under different land use systems, not least because the economies ofNorthern Botswana are heavily dependent on the environment, through livelihoodstrategies ranging from agriculture and hunter-gathering to pastoralism andwildlife-based tourism. The climate is highly variable and predicted to becomemore so through climate change; indeed preliminary data shows rainfall isalready lower and more variable than it was before 1980.
Scientifically, the Okavango region provides an excellentsite to measure the effects of different land uses on the environment. Thelandscape has been artificially divided into three primary uses for severaldecades (park-tourism; hunting; livestock), and plot level and aerialphotography data exist dating back to before the divisions were established.
ObjectivesThe purpose of this project is to initiate exploratory work on long term ecological change in and around the Moremi Game Reserve (MGR). The baseline and methodology provided by the project will be tracked as part of a much larger study. There is no comprehensive ecological monitoring in northern Botswana, despite the challenges of over-populations of elephant and livestock and the imminent threat of climate change.
The comprehensive monitoring programme includes:
1. Development of detailed baseline soil maps in Moremi Game Reserve
2. Development of baseline and methods for monitoring vegetation change
3. Monitoring of long-term changes in wildlife populations related to habitats
4. Linkages of soil, vegetation and wildlife monitoring to:
- Satellite-based remote sensing
- Past and models of future climate change
- Predictive ecological models that allow prediction for how combinations of elephant and impala or livestock will play out in the future. This project is critical to provide detailed data on the status of vegetation to run these models.
This research will be carried out in collaboration with park managers/researchers in Botswana and will inform Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks. A joint programme with graduate students at the University of Botswana in Gabarone is under discussion.
Studies conducted on the Chobe riverfront, as well as recent newspaper articles in Botswana, suggest that these ecosystems are being simplified, with the loss of both vegetation and mammal species. The objective of this study is to establish a monitoring system to verify this.
A further goal is to establish a long-term ecological monitoring and modelling programme in/around Moremi.
onitoring and modelling programme in/around Moremi.
Update180 detailed vegetation/soil transects will be undertaken inthe MGR during the next three consecutive dry seasons in three differenttreatment sites (MGR, surrounding wildlife areas, and rangelands). This areahas been selected so as to compare with the baseline FAO survey conducted in1965 by Graham Child (who will assist in this project). The new transects willbe compared with Dr Child’s from 1967.
Detailed vegetation work will be used to train satelliteimagery of the larger Ngamiland system to assess changes on a much largerspatial scale. It will also be used to model future habitat and wildlifescenarios using well-developed models such as SAVANNA and Q&D which iscurrently being applied in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.