Hydrology: Hydrological Research Unit

In dry countries as South Africa rural economic and environmental benefits depend on ecosystems. Rural areas rely on wetlands since they provide moist, nutrient-rich soil for food production and grazing. These traditional livelihood-security and production chains are degraded due to non-sustainable land use and global change, and wetland degradation actually accelerates climate change. This trend can be mitigated by restoration of degraded wetlands and construction of new wetlands, but also by introduction of innovative environmentally friendly solutions such as wetland farming.

The project WetEcon aims at the investigation of economic and environmental benefits which can be provided by wetlands. The overall economic benefits are still underappreciated because their economic quantification is complicated. The reason is the lack of market prices both for wetland agriculture and for non-market ecosystem services. The objective of the project is to investigate the economic and environmental benefits of restored and constructed wetlands. This is essential for African regions facing substantial problems regarding food, energy and water supply. The project outcomes will also provide benefits for developed countries, inclusive Germany and other EU member states.

WetEcon has a bi-modular structure to achieve ambitious objectives: Module 1 (Research) comprises the experimental testing and proof of broad bio-economic benefits of restored and constructed wetlands will be carried out, while Module 2 (Postgraduate training and continuing training) addresses this innovative topic in higher education of the participating universities and research institutes by means of newly developed courses and training, participation of students in research and utilisation of the research findings in short and medium term.

Catchments and estuaries are fragile systems that are prone to serious degradation from many different anthropogenic impacts. While much research has been conducted on developing an understanding of the fluvial processes in river catchment and in estuary dynamics, many of the athropogenic impacts on estuarine systems need to be derived from subjective expert opinion. There is a need to be more objective - using models to provide reproducible comparability and consistency between experts.