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26 Apr 2016 - 13:15

New book chapter by Ander M. De Lecea & Rachel Cooper. “The importance of the Thukela River Estuary, East Coast of South Africa, for the biology of the near-shore environment and associated human aspects: a review.”

The chapter is from a newly published book in the Springer series Estuaries of the World. The main focus… of this latest book in the series was the important role that estuaries play in the Western Indian Ocean. With this in mind, their book chapter focuses on the regional biological and socio-economic importance of the Thukela River estuary, the largest river on the east coast of South Africa, and how it might be affected by humans and climate change in future.

The book chapter begins by focusing on new research that highlights the importance of riverine nutrient inputs for the marine ecosystem of the KwaZulu-Natal Bight, an ecosystem that until recently was thought to be completely dominated by marine productivity originating from an upwelling cell. Consequently, this estuary has importance for supporting subsistence, recreational and commercial fisheries in one of South Africa’s most populated provinces. Despite all the evidence on the importance of the Thukela River to the marine ecosystem, the possibility of increasing water abstraction from the catchment has been considered in water-stressed South Africa. The chapter concludes by raising the issue that policy makers will increasingly have to face trade-offs between water demands for human consumption and marine ecological functioning, which are likely to be complicated by uncertainty surrounding future climate change effects on the river and its associated marine ecosystems. As such, this review examines the role played by the Thukela estuary, amongst other estuaries in the Bight, and assesses their overall importance for the area from an ecological and human perspective.