Assessment of the functional health status of the Melville wetland system, KwaDukuza, South Africa.
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Internationally, wetlands are recognised as being valuable, natural ecosystems that provide a spectrum of functions, goods and services. Wetlands are also known to be extensively prone to pollutants. KwaDukuza, which forms a part of the ILembe Municipality district, is located along the North coast of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, has recently experienced rapid economic development. The main land use activities occurring in this area are equally divided between subsistence agriculture and industries. These activities have inadvertently resulted in the drastic degradation of wetlands, rivers and other coastal bodies located in this area. Depending on how negatively affected, this could have a significant impact on the economic development of the region (KwaDukuza Municipality, 2012). Furthermore, the current water crisis occurring in South Africa could be further compounded by the degradation of these water sources (Kotze et al, 2004) and have given rise to a substantial need to carry out objective assessments of the condition of wetland environments (Day and Malan, 2010). Wetland assessments include step-by-step methodology whereby the reference or the pre-impact condition, present ecological state, ecological importance and sensitivity are all established (DWAF, 2004). In this study, from conducting such assessments it was found that the Melville wetland system, located in a rapidly developing suburb of the KwaDukuza Municipality, comprised of four hydrogeomorphic units and one river riparian unit. Results conclusively indicate that three out of the four HGM units were in a largely modified state with the remaining HGM unit in a moderately modified state, along with the river riparian area. Overall it was established that out of a total area of 6.79Ha, only 3.17Ha of healthy wetland remains. Therefore it is essential that the relevant recommendations and mitigation measures such as the installation of gabion weirs, re-vegetation programmes, correct storm water management and most significantly, the minimising of human disturbances, be implemented and enforced to the fullest extent. Relevant implementable measures are presented in the concluding chapter.