About this Research Topic
Africa is a continent of immense natural heritage, including iconic rivers that fostered the earliest civilizations and continue to play a central role in the continent’s socio-economic development. Major rivers such as the Nile, Niger, Orange and Zambezi drain highland water towers and carry water downstream to semi-arid and arid lands. The Congo River carries more water than any other African river, draining the heart of the tropical rain belt. To meet the needs of the increasing human population and livestock across the continent, these and thousands of smaller rivers are to be tapped for the water they carry and regulated for the energy of their cascades.
One of the major water needs include water abstraction for irrigated agriculture, industry and municipal supply for the urbanizing population. With these developments comes the risk of water pollution and loss of ecological integrity. However, most countries and regions in Africa, save for South Africa, lag behind when it comes to developing tools or indices as lines of evidence (LoEs) on the impact of human activities on the status of water quality and overall ecological integrity of riverine ecosystems. Moreover, there is a need to know how to use existing and new indices to assess, monitor and manage the current and future threats to water resources, such as increasing water abstractions, pollution and climate change.
While efforts have been made to develop ecological indices and other models to assess and monitor the status of streams and rivers in Africa, these have not been adequate and widespread. There is also a need to move beyond the development of these indices and vouch for their use in management for sustainability.
The aim of this Research Topic is (i) to contribute to the development of biomonitoring tools, (e.g., biotic indices, multimeric indices, models, etc.) for enhanced understanding of the impacts of human activities on riverine ecosystems at different levels of organization (species, communities, ecosystems) from across the African Continent and surrounding islands. (ii) To give novel insights into the effects of multiple stressors in riverine ecosystems arising from land use change, water pollution and excessive water withdrawals (abstractions), which includes case studies on environmental flow assessments (eflows). (iii) To determine key topics and methodological challenges related to the use of developed and existing biomonitoring tools (indices, models) for conservation and management of riverine ecosystems (including freshwater wetlands). Thus, this Research Topic also aims to encourage researchers across the continent to share knowledge and develop a common understanding of bioassessment and promote interdisciplinary collaborations.
We seek contributions from a broad base that demonstrate how to develop decision support tools for enhanced understanding of the threats posed by human activities on the integrity of riverine ecosystems (including associated wetlands), and their use in conservation and management of water resources. We specifically solicit submissions on the following themes:
• Status of water quality and riverine ecosystems. Assessment of the status of water quality and ecosystems using existing biological indicators and indices (e.g., diversity, biotic, multimeric indices) and similar tools and models (e.g., eflows methodology). This to span all levels of organization (species, communities, ecosystems) from across the continent, including transboundary ecosystems and regions;
• Development of decision support tools. New tools for assessment and monitoring the ecological status of riverine ecosystems and associated wetlands across the continent or broad biogeographic regions, i.e. across country borders, allowing for standardized assessments or new bioassessment methods for management;
• Novel assessment methods for citizen science. Advances in monitoring and assessment technologies that are more accessible and easy use (e.g. more affordable, rapid, require less expertise) in an African context other than traditional approaches (e.g. remote sensing, modelling, artificial intelligence, etc);
• Application of existing tools for management. The use of biomonitoring indices as decision support tools for the conservation and management of water resources. These to include environmental flows assessment tools and their applications in riverine ecosystems.
A special mention to Dr. Neels Kleynhans for his extensive work in putting together this Research Topic, his extensive knowledge of this field has been paramount to its success.
Keywords: Aquatic biodiversity, biological indicators, bioassessment, environmental flows, water quality
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