Impacts of sugarcane farming on coastal wetlands of the north coast of Zululand, Kwadukuza, South Africa

Matavire, Melisa M. (2015-04)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Wetlands are key to providing important ecosystem goods and services yet they are under threat from a number of anthropogenic activities. In particular, in this study area, agriculture in the form of sugarcane farming is a threat to wetlands as sugarcane is reliant on a good water supply. The impacts of sugarcane farming emanates from the fact that sugarcane is a mono crop that requires wetland resources and uses a lot of pesticides and fertilisers. Despite the assumed contribution of sugarcane farming to wetland loss and degradation, few studies have quantitatively assessed the spatio-temporal changes in wetland extent as well as changes in water quality because of this activity. This study assesses the impacts of sugarcane farming on wetland extent and water quality in two coastal wetlands of KwaDukuza, North coast of Zululand, South Africa. Specifically this study sought to (i) assess the impacts of sugarcane farming on the spatial extent of wetlands between 1959 and 2012, (ii) determine if sugarcane farming negatively affect water quality within the wetlands and (iii) evaluate the perceptions of local farmers regarding impacts of sugarcane farming on wetlands. Results of the study indicated an increase in the extent of Zinkwazi sugarcane fields from 62.3% to 67% between 1959 and 1989 and Nonoti sugarcane fields’ extent increased from 50.5 % to 56.4% between 1959 and 2000. The last decade from the year 2000 showed gradual decrease in the area of wetland farmed by sugarcane due to the global sugar price remaining static while the cost of farming inputs increased and due to conversion of some farms to urban developments. Unfortunately, this has not lead to an increase in wetland area as the waterfront type developments, as well as a formal settlement have replace the sugarcane in the wetlands. Water was analysed for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) and results for both Zinkwazi and Nonoti indicated an increasing trend of N and P from upstream to the middle region of the rivers and a decreasing trend of the N and P from the middle region to downstream. Sugarcane farming does not take place below the middle region and so does not provide fresh sources of these nutrients. The downstream area where the N and P decrease also coincides with the area of the river under tidal influence such that the N and P are being diluted by the incoming tidal seawater. K showed an increasing trend from upstream to downstream and its values were higher than N and P. Concentrations of N and P above the South African water quality guidelines for aquatic ecosystem were recorded in the middle region. Furthermore, farmers’ perceived wetlands to have been transformed to agricultural land and related these changes to their sugarcane farming activities. It can thus, be concluded that sugarcane farming has resulted in wetland loss as well as deterioration of water quality within the Zinkwazi and Nonoti wetlands in KwaDukuza. In that regard, there isneed to engage farmers in wetland management programs in order to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with sugarcane farming in wetlands.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vleilande is die sleutel tot die verskaffing van ‘n belangrike ekosisteem dienste, maar hulle is onder ‘n bedreiging deur 'n aantal menslike aktiwiteite. In besonder in hierdie studie area, is Argriculture in die vorm van suikerriet boerdery is bedraging vir vleilande, en suikerriet is afhanklik van 'n goeie watervoorraad. Ten spyte van die veronderstelde bydraes van suikerriet boerdery, is die vleiland aan die agteruitgang, 'n Paar studies het kwantitatief die tydruimtelike veranderinge in die vleiland, sowel as veranderinge in die gehalte van water as gevolg van hierdie aktiwiteit waargeneem. Spesifiek is hierdie studie gepoog om (i) te bepaal wat die impak van suikerriet boerdery op die ruimtelike omvang van die vleiland tussen 1959 en 2012 is, (ii) bepaal of suikerriet boerdery negatief beïnvloed is deur die gehalte van water in die vleilande en (iii) die persepsies van plaaslike boere rakende die evalueering en impak van suikerriet boerdery op die vleilande. Resultate van die studie het aangedui 'n toename in die omvang van Zinkwazi suikerriet velde van 62,3% tot 67% tussen 1959 en 1989, en die Nonoti suikerriet velde toegeneem het met 50,5% tot 56,4% tussen 1959 en 2000. Die laaste dekade van die jaar 2000 het geleidelike afname in die area van die vleilande getoon, omdat suikerriet as gevolg van die globale suiker prys die koste van boerdery-insette verhoog het, en dit het gelei tot die omskakeling van 'n paar plase na stedelike ontwikkelings. Ongelukkig het dit nie gelei tot 'n toename in die vleiland gebiede nie, met die gevolg die waterfront tipe ontwikkelings, asook 'n formele nedersetting, vervang die suikerriet in die vleilande. Water is ontleed vir N, P en K en resultate vir beide Zinkwazi en Nonoti, het aangedui 'n toenemende tendens van stikstof en Fosfor. Dit gaan stroomop na die middel-streek van die riviere en 'n dalende neiging van die N en P uit die middel streek stroomaf. Suikerriet boerdery vind nie plaas onder die middel streek nie, en so is daar nie vars bronne, wat van hierdie voedingstowwe verskaf nie. Die stroomaf gebied waar die N en P ‘n afname het, val ook saam met die gebied van die rivier onder die gety , en dit beinvloed sodanig dat die N en P se water verdun word deur die inkomende gety se seewater. K het 'n toenemende neiging van stroomop en stroomaf en sy waardes is hoër as van die N en P. Konsentrasies van N en P bo die Suid-Afrikaanse water standaard riglyne is in die middel streek aangeteken. Verder, beskou boere dat die vleilande behoort te verander om die landbougrond en verwante veranderinge aan hul suikerriet boerdery en aktiwiteite. Ons kan dus aflei dat suikerriet boerdery het gelei tot die vleiland se verlies asook die verandering in die watergehalte in die Zinkwazi en die Nonoti vleilande in KwaDukuza. In dié verband is dit nodig dat die boere in die vleiland by programme betrek word ten einde die negatiewe omgewingsimpakte wat met suikerriet boerdery gepaard gaan in vleilande te verminder.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97121
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