American Journal of Environmental Sciences

Building Resilience in Natural Capital to Reduce Disaster Risks and Adapt to Climate Change: A Case of Wetlands in the Eastern Free State; South Africa

Johanes A. Belle, Nacelle Collins and Andries Jordaan

DOI : 10.3844/ajessp.2017.358.377

American Journal of Environmental Sciences

Volume 13, Issue 5

Pages 358-377

Abstract

Wetlands are a form of natural capital which provide services that improve the welbeing of the local community. Unfortunately many wetlands have been degraded before their values and functions were realised. Using a system thing appraoach and a mixed research method, this article collected primary data from 176 respondents using questionnaires. Besides, 21 wetlands were observed using field observation data sheet while interviews were conducted with 31 environmental, disaster and climate change experts. Lastly secondary data were obtained from the South Africa Weather Service on two climate parameters. All these data were used to investigate the vulnerability and functions of wetlands as a natural capital and how to build wetland resilience in the eastern Free State of South Africa. The main findings were that wetlands especially those in communal land were still very vulnerable partly due to ignorance of wetland values and functions. The dominant function of the wetlands in the study area was agriculture (both crop production and grazing). These wetlands also perform other functions that support the welbeing and safety of the local community. Despites these valuable functions, wetland degradation is still going on and the management is still predominantly reactive. The main recommendation therefore was a proposed integrated management framework that build wetland resilience to the changing environment characterised by increasing extreme weather events and disaster risks exacerbated by negative impacts of climate change.

Copyright

© 2017 Johanes A. Belle, Nacelle Collins and Andries Jordaan. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.