Flows, morphology and vegetation interaction, a case of the hydropower dominated Middle-Zambezi catchment

Elenestina Mwelwa, Alessandra Crosato, Omar Khan, Nigel Wright

Friday 3 july 2015

9:45 - 10:00h at Europe 1 (level 0)

Themes: (T) Hydro-environment, (ST) Renewable energy resources

Parallel session: 14G. Environment - Renewable

From the rich biodiversity that the Middle Zambezi sub-catchment supports, both Zambia and Zimbabwe have established National Parks, with Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore safari areas being designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 (UNESCO World Heritage Centre 1992-2013). The habitat sustenance depends on the river channels and the associated morphological features with the flood and recession interactions, whose modification can lead to negative environmental consequences. The research work in the area has the key objective to investigate the state of the river and its flood plain environment in terms of surface and ground water flow and morphological variation, for both the pre and post hydropower situations, and the associated impacts on the floodplain tree species the Faidherbia albida. This tree is of vital importance for the local wild life, since its leaves and fruits constitute an important food source during the dry season. In the last decades, however, the tree has shown a worrying decrease in its germination rates, so that young trees can only be found on the river islands, whereas the river banks host deteriorating old trees. To identify the cause of floodplain vegetation degradation, this research work spanned the fields of engineering, hydrology, geomorphology and ecological/environmental science.