Gordon O’Brien

Gordon O’Brien

Gordon is the Ecology Lecturer of the School of Biology and Environmental Sciences of the University of Mpumalanga, South Africa. His expertise includes ecological risk assessments, aquatic ecology, fisheries research and water resources management. He is the programme leader of the Aquatic Ecosystem Research Programme and works and collaborates globally.

River Connectivity and Fish Migrations for People and the Environment: Lessons Learnt From Regional Scale E-Flow Assessments in Africa

Throughout Africa, water resource use is increasing with new many new dam development projects and increases in other river connectivity impeding stressors. Good Integrated Water Resource Management practice in Africa includes the application of holistic E-Flow methods/framework that give adequate consideration to flow and non-flow stressors to describe the risk to socio-ecological endpoints in a holistic, multiple scenario context. This includes the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem processes of social and ecological importance that rely on river connectivity, including fish migrations. Fish have been included as socio-ecological indicators in E-flow case studies throughout Africa including; the Inner Niger River and Delta, the Nile River and numerous tributaries, in the Congo River Catchment and the Thukela and Orange-Vaal Rivers. These case studies have incorporated the use of fish as indicators of flows, water quality and habitat suitability. This includes the effects of, and requirements for river connectivity for migrations that contribute to the biodiversity of systems, fisheries and associated human livelihoods, and important ecosystem processes such as energy transfers. The case studies demonstrated that there is sufficient empirical and solicited information to establish fish as ecological indicators that contributed to the E-flow assessments. Interestingly the requirements/preferences of different species/guilds associated with flow and habitat availability of the different ecosystems characterises the dynamism of ecological niches that fish occupy throughout the region. In these case studies fish have been established as important indicators of the socio-ecological consequences of altered flows and are being re-introduced as important monitoring components of the ecosystems throughout Africa.

Framework for regional evaluations of E-flows in the Nile Basin.

Regional E-flow frameworks have been established as best E-flow management practice for the sustainable use and protection of water resources on regional scales and across geo-political regions. These frameworks facilitate holistic E-flow assessments on multiple spatial scales, using a range of E-flow assessment tools with multiple trans-boundary social and ecological considerations. The Nile E-flows Framework meets the requirements of a robust E-flows Framework for the region and incorporates a range of E-flows assessment methods to provide an adaptable, scientifically valid E-flows management framework for the Nile Basin.  The framework established by the Nile Basin Initiative with water resources stakeholders of the basin, conforms to the principles of trans-boundary collaboration and benefit sharing, sustainable water resource use and protection using evidence based, transparent and adaptable tools. The framework, loosely based on the Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration framework with local considerations, includes the seven phases of situation assessment and alignment; governance and resource quality objectives setting; hydrological foundation; ecosystem type classification; flow alterations; flow-ecological-ecosystem services linkages; and E-flows setting and monitoring. The framework has been developed and implemented on multiple spatial scales through four trans-boundary case studies in the Nile Basin namely; the Dinder River (Ethiopia/Sudan), the Malaba River (Kenya/Uganda), Mara River (Kenya/Tanzania) and Kagera River (Burundi/Rwanda/Tanzania). The Nile E-flows Framework will contribute to the future aim of managing resources on a regional and ultimately a Nile Basin scale, using information derived from sub-basin scale E-flow management activities. Although this basin scale E-flows assessment process requires the future establishment of scale relevant E-flow management objectives, and a better understanding of the flow-ecology and flow-ecosystem service relationships on a basin scale; the Framework allows for larger regional scale assessments to be undertaken immediately and highlights information needs for larger regional/basin scale assessments.

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