Research Topic

Towards the Sustainable Use of African Wetlands

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About this Research Topic

Wetlands are among the world’s most threatened habitats, with only 13% of the original habitats left. Africa’s wetlands are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, invasive alien species, pollution, over harvesting and climate change. Yet, African wetlands provide staple foods such as rice and fish and ...

Wetlands are among the world’s most threatened habitats, with only 13% of the original habitats left. Africa’s wetlands are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, invasive alien species, pollution, over harvesting and climate change. Yet, African wetlands provide staple foods such as rice and fish and materials for up to 15% of the world’s population. Wetlands are also increasingly seen as important for adaptation to climate change. The continued loss of wetlands has direct, measurable impacts on the people that depend on them, causing declines in biodiversity, food security, water quality and quantity, and carbon capture and storage to mitigate climate change. Despite the dependence of a large proportion of Africa’s population on wetland ecosystem services, these habitats are rarely monitored sufficiently. This is due to a lack of awareness of their importance, the importance of monitoring, lack of resources (both financial and knowledge-based), as well as a lack of developed monitoring methods for the assessment of wetlands. Institutional short comings in many African countries prevent a concerted effort in data collection, analysis, and sharing.

The object of this inter- and multidisciplinary Research Topic is to bring together contemporary research on African wetlands along three spectra: discipline, habitat and ecosystem service provision. We welcome papers spanning disciplines from the basic and applied sciences to water governance and policy, habitats from coastal to inland wetlands, and ecosystem service changes from drivers to impacts. We particularly welcome papers that cut across the three spectra with fresh approaches to deep-rooted problems.

We are interested in the following submissions:

a) Water quality. The maintenance of water quality by wetlands, including nitrogen and phosphorus retention and sediment retention, especially in the context of land use change, including agricultural intensification and urbanization.

b) Upscaling, standardizing or translating traditional assessment methods. New methods for unifying and/or translating existing environmental assessment methods across into new geographical space across the continent or broad biogeographic regions, i.e. across country borders, allowing for standardized assessments or new bioassessment methods for implementation.

c) Novel assessment methods. Advances in monitoring and assessment technologies that may be more accessible (e.g. more affordable, rapid, require less expertise) in an African context than traditional methods (e.g. remote sensing, cellphones, drones, modelling, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain technology and decentralized databases).

d) Climate change mitigation. The role of wetlands in climate change adaptation and mitigation (flood protection, carbon storage) and risks to maintaining these ecosystem services in the face of changing temperature and precipitation patterns.

e) Wetland-dependent livelihoods. How do people use wetlands to support their livelihoods, what is the role of wetlands in livelihoods strategies, how can wetland ecosystem services be sustainable in the face of increasing population pressure, urbanization and climate change?

f) Governance and institutions of wetlands. The ways in which African governments protect wetland ecosystems in national and transboundary contexts. This includes both formal and informal institutions, the roles different actors play and their power relationships. How can the capacity for effective and sustainable wetland management of actors at different scales be strengthened? Solutions could include citizen science through establishment of citizen observatories or participation in serious games.

g) Investigations and/or case studies into application of the new discipline ‘conservation psychology’ and its subdiscipline ’conservation marketing’ (with its origin in economics) to convince people to actively conserve African wetlands (closing the intention-behaviour gap), over and above awareness raising, which may or may not lead to action.


Keywords: Aquatic biodiversity, freshwater conservation, climate change, ecosystem service, governance


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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