Monitoring and simulating threats to aquatic biodiversity in the Okavango Delta


Darwin initiative, HOORC, BP/NERC


Wetland systems are rich in biodiversity but are being degraded rapidly. The Okavango Delta (OD) in Botswana is one of the world's largest inland wetland regions. The delta is maintained by annual flooding of the Okavango River (from the highlands of central Angola) creating unique habitats with exceptionally high beta diversity. It is one of the WWFs top 200 eco-regions of global significance and the world’s largest Ramsar site. This project aims to build capacity in key institutions involved in conservation of biodiversity in the OD, to assist in implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This will involve an integrated, multi-disciplinary programme of (a) scientific research to develop baseline aquatic biodiversity characterisations (phytoplankton, macroinvertebrate and macrophyte assemblages) and their relationship with hydrological drivers, namely the hydroperiod (flood duration and frequency), and water quality; (b) training in methods of aquatic biological data collection, analysis and system modelling. This will enable for simulation of aquatic biological diversity responses to scenarios of future changes to basin climate and hydrology, which will be crucial to informing policy decisions for biodiversity protection/conservation within the Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP).

Expected outputs

The project will utilise hydrological modelling tools and development scenarios developed under the EU funded ‘WERRD’ project and climate change modelling outputs from a UK NERC ‘Dorothy Hodgkin’ project. Outputs of the project are expected to be fed directly into the ongoing ODMP and OKACOM management processes. The project provides a complement to the UNDP GEF project on biodiversity in the OD.


Activities and schedule


Year 1: Identification of candidate study sites (up to 100) from historical 15-year satellite derived dataset of flood history, aerial photos and local knowledge. Sampling will cover a range of hydroperiod conditions.

Years 1 & 2: Data collection from sites, laboratory analyses.

Years 2-3: Development of multiple high-resolution climate predictions (for 2030-50) using General Circulation and Regional Climate Models. Multiple 20-year hydrological model simulations over OD conducted, based on various (c 10) climate change and water abstraction scenarios. Development of IBI and statistical IBI models. Initial prediction of IBIs under hydrological scenarios.


Years 1-3: Training of Batswana staff in taxonomy, field methods, advanced numerical methods, computing and climate analysis. UCL staff will visit HOORC to deliver annual 1-week courses on each component, while key HOORC academic staff will visit the UK for specialist training. Senior undergraduate students from HOORC winter school trained each year.

Year 2: 2 UB Masters research projects.


Year 1: Production of guidelines, training manuals, protocols and web site.

Years 1-3: Submission/presentation to ODMP. Attendance at conferences.

Year 3: Submission of final results to international publications, ODMP, OKACOM and media.


January 2006

Project has been initiated

April 2006

The kick-off meeting in Maun.

September 2006

First sampling campaign

December 2006

Second sampling campaign

January 2007

Course on water quality monitoring in the Okavango Delta held at HOORC

April 2006

Third sampling campaign

August 2006

Fourth sampling campaign

September 2006

Trans-Okavango sampling

October 2006

Fifth sampling campaign. Course on advanced statistics held at HOORC.


No results yet, but you can see location of our sampling points (this is a Google Earth link)

We have also started a database with collected data. (its a work in progress, though)