Basic Overview of KZN Estuaries

Chapter 4 of the South African Integrated Coastal Management Act places responsibility on the country’s Provinces to ensure integrated and strategic management of their estuaries. However, little is known of even the most basic components, parameters and status of most KwaZulu-Natal estuaries. To date, the focus of investigation has been concentrated on the larger or protected systems. While a national monitoring plan is being established by the national government’s Department of Water Affairs to include at least 14 national systems for water quality monitoring in the programme by 2014, it is incumbent on the Provinces to provide basic information on estuaries that will assist in the prioritisation of systems to be monitored and estuarine management plans developed. At this stage no biophysical monitoring of estuaries is conducted in KZN. As a first step to develop the platform for future monitoring, ORI will define each of KZN’s 75 estuaries in terms of type (according to the South African estuary typing system), boundary (according to the 5m contour), propose a critical functional zone buffer (to be mapped), assess the current physico-chemical status (to be assessed during site visits), available habitats (from aerial photography and ground-truthing) and surrounding land use. These will be integrated and spatially presented as a visual and query tool to assist managers on the ground. This will provide the platform to identify key systems for continuous monitoring (other national initiatives) and priority areas for conservation and management.