Artificial Wetland on Western Campus

Artificial Wetland on Western Campus

An Environmental Impact Assessment that was carried out as part of the extension and upgrading of Booth Road, Cato Manor, recommended that in view of the destruction of a pond and wetland, a mitigation pond and wetland should be constructed. After an investigation of suitable sites for the location of the mitigation pond and wetland, Dr Paul Joslin of Walmsley Environmental Consultants, in consultation with Prof Fred Ellery and Mr Kevin Crampton of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, recommended that it be located on the floodplain of the Mkumbane River on the property of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. The presence of a diverse amphibian fauna including several endemic and uncommon species of frogs in the former pond and wetland, was one of the most compelling reasons for recommending the construction of this feature.

The pond was constructed in 2000 to an approximate depth of 2m, with a variety of shelves and banks of different angles and depths to promote heterogeneity and therefore opportunities for floral and faunal diversity. It includes a permanently flooded main basin that is deepest, and two subsidiary basins that are linked to the main basin via spillways. A flow control structure has been put in place to ensure that the pond fills to a maximum depth, with overspill from the pond being diverted into the Mkumbane River.

Five level 3 student projects in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences have investigated the performance of the pond from the point of view of basin shape (Chantalle Will), hydrological characteristics (Danielle Michel), vegetation succession (Malcolm Moses) and colonization by amphibian species (Tamara Casey). The final study was an Environmental Performance Audit (EPA) that examined the extent to which the Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Plan had been implemented in the construction and post-construction maintenance of the pond (Marco da Cunha). As part of these studies the limnology and hydrology of the system have been described, as has the colonization of the system by plants and animals. These studies will provide baseline information on the status of the pond soon after construction so that future work can monitor change and measure performance.

The studies reveal that there is a small reservoir of water that is maintained in the main pond during the winter period as a consequence of minor surface and groundwater inflows. Following the first rains, the water level rises to the maximum retention level, mainly as a consequence of runoff and surface inflow of water from the small catchment in which the wetland is situated. The water level drops rapidly following this early wet season inundation, due mainly to groundwater outflow an recharge. The pond is clear and water quality is moderate, making colonization by plants possible. The main basin has been sparsely vegetated due to large fluctuations in the water level over the seasonal cycle, whereas the subsidiary ponds have been well rehabilitated due to a more stable water level. The surrounding seasonally flooded and terrestrial habitats are showing reasonable signs of recovery, with some degree of alien plant infestation that is being managed well. The frog fauna has not recovered as well as might be hoped, but as the pond settles and is recolonised by plants, it is hoped that this will happen. Fluctuating water levels in the main pond may be the most substantial barrier to its rapid rehabilitation. This will be monitored into the wet season and may form the basis for some recommendation to seal the basin more carefully than was done initially.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal, through the UKZN Environment Committee and Grounds Department, has made a substantial commitment to ensuring that the pond is managed to promote the goal of this important conservation feature. It should form an important attraction as part of the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Open Space System that links into the Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D'MOSS). At the same time, students and staff in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences have recognized the importance of this feature for teaching and learning.

Instead of having to refer to the feature as the ''artificial pond and wetland on the University of KwaZulu-Natal Campus'', the name "Isiziba Samasele" or "Pond of frogs" has been proposed.

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