The South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI), one of 13 research infrastructures developed by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), was established in 2021, with the final contract between the DSI and the National Research Foundation signed in November.
Title: Wicked problems in the Maputaland Coastal Plain: A case for using Social ecological systems approaches and the need for transdisciplinary integration
Presenter: Sue van Rensburg (Grasslands, Wetlands and Forests Node)
The Lake Sibaya catchment within catchment W70A is a unique wetland-rich, groundwater driven system with no surface rivers importing water into it. It is entirely dependent on localized rainfall for recharge. This Strategic Ground Water Source Area (SWSA) resource, on which local communities rely, has been declining over the last 20 years. Competition for water for human consumption, the environment, tourism, agriculture and forestry are increasing. Recent studies have indicated a combination of below average rainfall and forestry are contributing to this decline. While people in the region are aware that forestry has a negative effect on the water table, the existing conditions and perceptions make it very difficult to identify and shift towards attractive economic alternatives.
We are currently undertaking a WRC funding project that aims to use a social ecological systems approach to develop a decision-support tool that explores the net economic and environmental consequences of different economic and land-use choices under different climate scenarios as an initial step in transgressing perceived constraints. The intention is to use this as an engagement tool, working with communities to co-create awareness regarding the interactions of climate, land use and the water resource on the net economic well-being of the region.
We report on the upfront multidisciplinary integration required to develop a system-wide resource economics model, which incorporates appropriately scaled climatological, landcover and hydrological components to assess the net impact of current and future land use and climate on this sensitive region. Results from engagements with community leaders on challenges, economic activities and aspirational land use scenarios are presented. These point towards potential self-determined actionable alternatives for the region. Preliminary analysis from household surveys demonstrate commonalities as well as divergent responses relating to geographical position and access to alterative economic activities, such as ecotourism operations, with the system.