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Natural and human dimensions of environmental change in the proximal reaches of Botswana's Okavango Delta

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Though wetlands are vital for the proper functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and provisioning of a wide range of goods and services, their sustainability is being threatened by inappropriate human resource use practices due to our limited understanding of how these systems operate and lack of appropriately informed interventions. We attempt to address these limitations by using historical CORONA photographs of 1967, Landsat imagery of 1989, 1994 and 2001 and information from the literature to investigate the role of natural and human factors in influencing the direction of environmental change in the proximal reaches of Botswana's Okavango Delta. Results of this investigation point to fragmentation of natural habitats, localised degradation of areas close to perennial water supplies, significant increase in woody cover, significant decrease in open grassland, increase in scrub and shrubs, deterioration in the quality of grazing and depletion of specific woody species. With the direction of change pointing to persistent decrease in the environment's supporting potentials, there is urgent need to adopt intervention strategies potentially capable of enhancing sustainable utilisation of natural resources in this sub-region.

Keywords: arable land; bush encroachment; deforestation; overgrazing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Agricultural Research Council, Institute for Soil, Climate and Water, PO Box 8783, Hatfield, Pretoria, South Africa, Email: 2: Department of Environmental Science, University of Botswana, P. Bag 00704, Gaborone, Botswana, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2010


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