Evaluating the importance of flood pulse cycles in the Okavango socio-ecological system: Challenges of developing a free-flowing river.

Theme: Pan-disciplinary

Primary Supervisor:

Naho Mirumachi

Department of Geography, KCL

Secondary Supervisor:

Emma Tebbs

, KCL

Project Description:

The Cubango-Okavango basin in southern Africa spans three countries – Botswana, Namibia and Angola – and terminates in the Okavango Delta, an internationally important wetland, recognised as a World Heritage Site and Ramsar Site. The Delta supports unique and endangered species, dependent on the seasonal floods that reach the wetland during the dry season, as well as providing significant tourist income and cultural value for the people of Bostwana. A relatively pristine but fragile ecosystem, it is at risk from potential upstream developments, including hydropower and irrigation, threatening the free-flowing nature of this unique transboundary river. This PhD will evaluate the importance of the flood pulse cycle in supporting the Okavango socio-ecological system, exploring ecohydrological processes in the basin and examining how the flood pulse has changed over time in different parts of the delta and the political economy of river use. Using historic satellite imagery, processed using Google Earth Engine, you will develop a model relating rainfall and river inflows to wetland extent. This model will then be used to evaluate the effect of climate change and potential future development scenarios on the Delta, and to predict the potential impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. You will also consider the requirements for the effective management of the basin, identifying and interviewing the suite of stakeholders both locally and internationally, including governments and NGOs charged with conserving the basins flora and fauna as well as utilisation of water for development and poverty alleviation. The basin and the Southern African region more generally has developed institutional arrangements for transboundary water management, including the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) as well as SADC Water Sector.

Policy Impact of Research:

This research will provide knowledge exchange with a range of policy stakeholders including government, businesses and civil society that will contribute to the management of the Cubango-Okavango basin. You will have the option to attend international water meetings such as the Stockholm World Water Week and World Water Congress for policy engagement with government officials from the basin and Southern African region.


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