Friday, June 9, 2023

UB to host Wetlands symposium

The University of Botswana Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Center (UB HOORC) will next year host the Flood Pulsed Wetlands International symposium in Maun where the center is based.
This is in line with the research that specialists at the HOORC have undertaken so far on the Okavango wetlands. The symposium will address the importance and effects of pulsing hydrologic cycles on the functioning of wetlands. Furthermore, the conference will focus on the importance of flood pulses on wetland flooding and linked responses on chemistry, biological productivity, biodiversity and human livelihood, history and culture.

Scientists at the HOORC have been studying the Okavango wetlands since 1996 and have since noticed change throughout the years. Although more than a decade ago, the delta showed a decrease in water levels, channels in the delta are noticeably now overflowing.

“The only constant we have in the Okavango Delta is change,” said Professor Lars Ramberg, one of the researchers. “Variability in the flow of water is the rule.┬á This is because the rainfalls in Angola have large variations from year to year, and it is from that the inflowing Okavango River is getting all its water.”

He also noted that climate change also adds to the matter and that they (the researchers) are anticipating a general trend towards dryer conditions.
Ramberg said historical data, which has been collected by the government, indicates that they can develop models for predicting the likelihood of wet and dry periods.

“It appears that we are now entering a period of increased inflow and larger areas being flooded in the delta,” he said.

HOORC hydrologist, Dr Piotr Wolski, has already developed a key tool in understanding and predicting water flows. The model was used to provide planning information to the National Disaster Management Office during the recent anticipation of the floods at the southern settlements along the delta’s out-flowing river channels.

The model suggests that the rapid rise of waters in the geologically constrained Panhandle caused flooding in some northern settlements. However, the flood pulse was not sustained and, after spreading through the permanent swamps, water levels reaching settlements at the distal end will not be significantly greater than those experienced in recent years.

Large wetlands are said to be ideal for studying the multitude of effects caused by the flood pulse. Thus on February 2010, leading scientists from the world over will gather in Maun to debate the significance of the Okavango’s latest floods. The international symposium will be themed “Wetlands in a flood pulsing environment: Effects on Biodiversity, Ecosystem Function and Human Society.”

The symposium, which starts on February 1 to February 5, will see ecologists, water engineers, historians, public health and livelihoods specialists discussing these patterns and how they affect the people who depend on these environments. HOORC and the BIOKAVANGO project will host the meeting, which will also look at other large wetlands such as the Pantanal in Brazil, the Everglades in the USA and the marshes of Mesopotamia in Iraq and Iran.


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