Investigation of impact of climate change on Matlabas wetland in Marakale national park, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Masters in Nature Conservation.
Climate change has been identified as a major threat to wetlands. Changes in hydrology and rising temperatures can alter the biogeochemistry and function of a wetland to the point where some important services become disservices. Carbon dioxide emissions from drained and burned peatlands account for about 10% of global annual fossil fuel emissions. This implies they will no longer provide a water purification service, and they may begin to decompose and release nutrients into the surface water. Wetlands become carbon sources when they are drained, burned, or cleared, releasing centuries of stored carbon into the atmosphere. The primary aim of this study is to determine the effects of climate change on the Matlabas wetland and which climate change parameters have the greatest influence on wetland functioning. The objectives were to determine changes in the wetland over the last few years, changes in wetland hydrology and rainfall, and changes in wetland vegetation. Polyvinyl chloride wells and piezometer tubes were used to determine hydrological changes in the wetland at various depths in eight randomly selected sites. In the same locations, eight veld condition assessments were performed using a disc pasture meter, which was also used to measure fuel load. The results of water sample analysis and veld condition assessments were used to determine the threat to the wetland. The study also used fire scar history to determine the frequency and effect of fires in the area. The purpose of the fire was to assess changes in the wetland's vegetation component. According to the results of all eight sites, site 1; site 2; site 3 and site 4 did not exhibit any indication of water on the piezometers for the duration of the winter season. The type of herbaceous vegetation also supported this, as they are not wetland plant species. Those plant species observed invading the wetland boundaries is Protea roupelliae. Increaser IIs species such as Eragrostis bicolor; Setaria Pallide-fusca; Digitaria monodactyla; Panicum Schinzii; Cynodon dactylon and Aristida congesta ssp congesta were discovered throughout all eight sites. These species are more common in areas with overgrazing or disturbed land. The results suggest that the Matlabas wetland is under threat from a variety of ecological factors, and more research is required to identify these threats and implement mitigation and adaptation measures. The study concludes that park management should implement structural interventions to remove water from the channel, wet other areas of the wetland, and raise ground water levels to avert further erosion.