A modelling approach for determining the freshwater requirements of estuarine macrophytes.
Increased abstraction of water in the catchment results in a reduced or altered pattern of river flow and this holds serious consequences for the downstream estuarine ecosystem. In South Africa this is a serious concern because freshwater is in limited supply and the demand for freshwater can be expected to increase in the future. A large multi-disciplinary consortium of South African scientists are working on projects to determine the freshwater requirements of estuarine ecosystems. As part of this, this thesis reports on research undertaken to develop mathematical models to determine the freshwater requirements of estuarine macrophytes. Three key macrophytes are selected. The macrophytes are Zostera capensis Setchell, Ruppia cirrhosa Grande, and Phragmites australis. They are common macrophytes in South African estuaries. Zostera and Ruppia are submerged macrophytes and Phragmites is an emergent macrophyte. They have different freshwater environments and therefore respond differently to alterations in freshwater flow. A first order differential equation model is used to determine the effect of different combinations of open and closed mouth conditions of the estuary on Zostera and Ruppia. The scenarios are selected to determine whether achieving a switch in states from a Zostera-dominated estuary to a Ruppia-dominated estuary is possible. To predict encroachment rates and colonisation patterns, a cellular automaton of the vegetative spread of existing Zostera beds is developed. After analysing various scenarios accounting for both an increase and a decrease in freshwater supply, the cellular automaton is extended to include interactions between Ruppia and Phragmites. The multi-species model is applied to the Kromme estuary, South Africa and the Great Brak estuary, South Africa. Various freshwater scenarios are examined from the natural runoff condition to the situation of no freshwater inflow. A sensitivity analysis of the spatial model with Zostera, Ruppia and Phragmites is conducted.
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