Dr. Althea Grundling, Agricultural Research Council, Institute for Soil, Climate and Water, South Africa, will deliver a seminar: South African Peatlands.
Not all wetlands in South Africa are peatlands. Peatlands are characterised by the unique ability to accumulate and store dead organic matter from wetland vegetation under almost permanent water saturated conditions and low oxygen content. Peat is, therefore, not only a resource for soil carbon but also fresh water.
Hydrological processes play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of this unique wetland type, especially in drier regions. Although peatlands are not common in South Africa, they are under threat from agriculture, mining, exotic plantations and infrastructure and are consequently impacted by clearing, draining, poorly managed grazing, excessive groundwater abstraction and alien invasive infestation. In order to explain the key processes forming peatlands, it is important to understand the spatial distribution of peatlands in South Africa as well as their valuable contribution to the South African wetland ecological infrastructure.
This presentation refers to the recently updated peatland eco-region map, indicating areas where possible peatlands might occur, as well as the national peatland database. Special emphasis will be given to the subtropical eastern part of the country to explain how the source of water for wetlands and peatlands can determine vulnerability to changes in the landscape and environment.