Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

colbartn.gif (4535 octets)

A survey of tropical southeastern Africa in the 
context of coastal zone management

 Mark R. Jury and Yogani Govender
Environmental Studies Department, University of Zululand

 1.  Introduction

The tropical east coast of South Africa (north of Sodwana Bay, figure 1) is edged by coral reefs, dynamic sandy beaches, pristine coastal forests and community lands cleared for grazing. The coastal zone is remarkably narrow – exposed coral reefs and the surf zone extend 100-200 m seaward; coastal forests extend 200-400 m inland over dunes about 100 m high. It is relatively untouched by man through the conservation efforts of the KwaZulu Nature Conservation Services (NCS) and the inherently low population density (~ 25 people/km2). According to the Environmental Potential Atlas for Southern Africa (1997) per capita income is about R 3 000 per annum mainly from subsistence agriculture. Biological productivity is estimated to be 1 ton per capita per annum in the Maputaland coastal zone.

Maputaland

Figure 1. Map of Maputaland, 
northernmost coast of South Africa.

Considerable information is collated in a useful reference book, Ecology of Maputaland (1980). The climate is tropical (mean temperature: 16°C in July, 27°C in January) and sub-humid (mean relative humidity: 55% in August, 90% in February). More rain falls along the coast than inland (1000 mm/year on the coast versus 700 mm/year 40 km inland). Water runoff per capita is approximately 1500 m3 a year and there is little erosion, hence pressure on certain natural resources is low. Sea temperatures remain warm, ranging from 21°C in August to 26°C in February, with the offshore Agulhas Current continually drawing water from the tropical Indian Ocean (see figure 6). Information on local currents is limited to ships’ drift measurements 2 km offshore (Ecology of Maputaland 1980). Southward currents are found 69% of the time, northward 22% of the time. Cyclonic gyres are thought to occur in-shore near Kosi Mouth and south of Sodwana Bay. This may lead to longer than otherwise  expected residence times for certain marine species. Wave-driven currents occur in the 100-200 m wide surf zone and long-shore drift occurs depending on the angle of the incoming swell. The tides are semi-diurnal and 1-2 m in range. Beaches take the form of asymmetrical bays leeward (north) of sandstone covered coral reefs projecting in a northeasterly direction. The coral reefs are home to a vast number of marine species according to the Ecology of Maputaland (1980). The beaches are subject to erosion by storms, causing sudden changes in the sand profile. The coastal plain lies at an elevation of approximately 70. Soils are generally sandy and easily leached; hence agricultural potential is limited.

Development strategies for the region are undergoing transformation. In the Spatial Development Initiative (SDI) Framework (1998) the coastal forest reserve is singled out for ‘low volume, high income’ tourism projects. It is pointed out that access roads to the main urban centres (e. g. Durban and Johannesburg) are good, except within the Maputaland coastal zone. KwaZulu Natal captures 25-30% of the domestic recreational and international tourism market, worth more than $10 billion annually. Hence a continued influx of tourists could bring prosperity, provided that safety and stability are maintained (Odendal and Schoeman 1990). The 3 - 5% per annum projected growth for this economic sector means that in 2000 it will account for 7% of South Africa’s gross domestic product. Tourism is a powerful creator of jobs and is expected to employ 11% of people in Africa by 2010, many within the coastal zone. The SDI report highlights that 74% of visitors to the Maputaland coastal zone come from within a 400 km radius. The seasonal cycle of visitors shows a dual peak at Easter and Christmas. At present the Maputaland coastal zone does not rank highly as an attraction due to its remoteness. The SDI report points out that only four of Maputaland’s beaches have basic tourism infrastructure. This will change with increased development and the projected growth in demand for holidays in tropical settings.

2. Objectives of the 1999 Study

An initial field survey was conducted to gain insight into the landscape and use of resources and to collect a limited number of environmental samples. It will form the basis of a long-term monitoring effort aimed at understanding the diversity of coastal species, the dynamic nature of sandy beaches, and human use and impact on this environment. The survey forms part of the Coastal Global Ocean Observing System (C-GOOS) outlined in UNESCO (1998).

Survey area

Figure 2. Map to show the location of the field
surveys. Soil (S1 – S6) and water (W1 – W6)
sampling sites, elevations, developments, 
transect sites and aspects of climate are 
marked.

2.1 Field Surveys

Aerial

Prior to the ground-based field survey work, two 2-hour aerial photographic surveys were conducted on the 13th and 26th of June 1999 using a small aircraft. The flight plan was northwards from Richards Bay in a zigzag pattern at a height of 200 to 300 m over the coastal points and bays adjacent to the coral reefs of interest. Photographs were taken from the aircraft. Examples are given in figure 3 showing the coast near our study area of Mabibi.

Figure 3. Aerial survey photographs.

Mabibi beach 1

Mabibi 1

Mabibi beach viewed from the
north Ý ß.

Community close to Mabibi 
beach viewed from the north 
at a height of 200mÝ ß.

Mabibi beach 2

Mabibi 2

Ground-based

The survey of the tropical southeast coast of South Africa was conducted from the 26th June to the 7th July 1999. Visits were made to a number of places between Sodwana Bay and the Kosi Lake system; extending from 27°27’ to 26°53’S (see figure 1). Photographic and demographic surveys were conducted, and soil and water samples were collected, mainly in the Nature Conservation Service Coastal Forest Reserve near Mabibi (see figure 2). The survey team consisted of six university staff and graduate students from the Environmental Studies Department of the University of Zululand.

3. Preliminary Results

A preliminary landscape analysis was conducted using the aerial photographs and satellite vegetation colour imagery (figure 4). The ground-based survey revealed a rich diversity of tropical trees and shrubs on steep, 100 m high, coastal dunes and along the edge of Lake Sibaya. Near rural communities forests have been cleared for grazing and invaded by grasses. Greater effort will be required in future surveys to understand the stresses placed on the terrestrial biota.

Figure 4.

Aerial view of Mabibi

Panoramic aerial photographs of Mabibi viewed from the 
north at a height of 300 m showing the beach to the left, 
the Mabibi settlement in the centre and Lake Sibaya to 
the right.

Satellite image - vegetation

Satellite vegetation colour image. Savana encroachment 
on the dark green coastal forests is evident.  


Weather, coastal and sea conditions

Climatic conditions during the survey were sunny and dry (see table 1). Weather maps of mean wind speeds, humidity and temperature are shown in figure 5. Four out of the nine survey days were windy enough to transport sand along the beach in the afternoon. The lack of wind-free areas along the beach is a serious constraint to development. Sea conditions were rough on three days, making water-based activities difficult. Visibility for snorkeling over the in-shore coral reefs was excellent on three days. Temperatures were mild during the day but declined in the evening, at one stage reaching 7°C, making tented accommodation a chilling experience. This was the coldest spell of the 1999 winter season. Minimum temperatures below 10°C would inhibit the migration of tropical species if sustained for more than a few days. Afternoons were warm on all but one day. Day length was 10 hours, with sunset at 17h00 curtailing outdoor activities. Cool sea temperatures made the use of a wetsuit essential even for brief snorkeling dives. Near-shore ocean currents were northward on six out of nine days. Satellite images of sea temperature and ocean colour during the survey are shown in figure 6.

Table 1.  Climate observations.

Date

Weather

Temperature
 
(
°C)

Wind direction and speed (m/s)

Swell direction and 
height
(m) /period (s)

28-06

sunny

9 – 25

N - NE

5 – 10

SE

2.0 / 12

29-06

clear / windy

7 - 24

N - NE

13 – 15

SE

1.5 / 10

30-06

sunny

11 – 27

NE

5

E

1.0  / 8

01-07

clear / windy

12 – 25

NE

1013

SE

1.5  / 6

02-07

stormy

13 – 23

SW

15 – 18

S

2.0 / 10

03-07

partly cloudy

13 – 27

S

5

S

2.0 / 10

04-07

sunny

13 – 26

NE

8

SE

1.5 / 8

05-07

sunny

14 – 27

SW

5 – 8

SE

1.0 / 8

06-07

cloudy / cool

15 - 20

SE

10 – 13

S

2.5 / 9

The sea surface temperature was a constant 21 °C throughout the survey period.

Figure 5. 

Surface weather maps averaged 
over the survey period ( nine day 
mean for Monday June 28 1999 to 
Tuesday July 6 1999) from NCEP 
USA; data available on the 
Internet

Humidity

 Surface relative humidity (%). 

Temperature Wind speed

Surface temperature (°C). 

Surface wind speed 
(metres/second). 

Figure 6. Satellite images from the survey period.
Satellite sea surface temperature
Sea surface temperature (°C) Ý
The  warm Agulhas Current is evident.
Ocean phytoplankton colour 
ß.
Satellite phytoplankton

Marine biota

Four snorkeling dives were accomplished at Mabibi, LalaNek, and Kosi Mouth. The richest species diversity was noted in the tidal pool north of Hulley Point, Mabibi. Numerous live coral reefs and tropical fishes were encountered. At one count, 20 different fish species were identified. For future quantitative reference, underwater photographs will be taken. Further efforts will be made to enhance marine data based on contacts with NCS Scientific Services, and the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban.

Soil samples and land use potential

Soil samples were analysed in the Department of Agriculture laboratory at the University of Zululand, and results are reported below in table 2. Sample positions for soil analysis are shown in figure 2.

Table 2. Chemical and soil fertility analysis.

Sample site pH Density (g/ml) K (mg/Kg) C
(%)
Ca (mg/Kg) Mg (mg/Kg) Na (mg/Kg) Zn (mg/Kg) Al (cmol/l) N
(%)
P
(%)
S1

4.56

1.384

10.8

5.1

180.6

72.2

361.2

1.806

0.35

0.035

4.17

S2

4.01

1.372

10.9

4.44

145.8

72.88

327.9

1.822

0.55

0.032

4.17

S3

5.25

1.377

10.9

3.84

435.5

108.8

435.5

2.178

0.3

0.052

8.34

S4

5.11

1.334

7.5

2.28

224.8

112.3

374.5

1.873

0.4

0.039

4.17

S5

4.70

1.313

19.0

3.78

494.9

76.14

342.6

2.665

0.25

0.036

8.34

S6

5.88

1.358

40.5

4.62

368

110.4

331.2

2.222

0.3

0.053

8.34

K: potassium; C: carbon; Ca: calcium; Mg: magnesium; Na: sodium; Zn: zinc; Al: aluminium; N: nitrogen; P: phosphorus. Percentages are weight for weight.  

The soil is acidic and therefore unsuited to most types of exploitation without the addition of a neutralising agent. Many essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and aluminium are limited. Potassium is important in soil fertility. Levels in excess of 100 mg / kg are normally required; none of the soil samples contain this concentration. Sample S6 has the highest pH and potassium content, but remains deficient. The bulk density is low so the water holding capacity of the soils is poor. Phosphate another critical nutrient is lacking. The high sodium levels in the soil reflect historical inundation of the land by the sea. The carbon/nitrogen ratio is high, hence nitrogen nutrients would have to be imported to make a success of crop farming. Although the land use potential shown in table 3 suggests that an adequate level of productivity could be achieved in certain areas, experience has shown that the soils are so poor that only cashew nuts are commercially viable.

Table 3. Land use potential in the Maputaland coastal zone. (total area ~ 10 km inland X 50 km along the coast).

Cultivation 
(in swampy areas)  

Crops  
Sweet potato
Banana
Cassava
Vegetables
Mango
Peanuts
Pawpaw  

Productivity  
Adequate
Adequate
Adequate
Poor
Adequate 
Poor  
Poor  

Grazing

Livestock  
Cattle  
Poultry  

Productivity  
Poor  
Poor  

Conserved areas
(estimated)

Approximately 100 km2  
as coastal forests and 
50 km2 as marine reserves

High potential for 
tourism revenue  

Area cleared for 
farming  

Approximately 100 km2   Poor productivity
Infrastructure  

Schools
Clinic
Roads
Tourist camps  

 
Homesteads and 
peri-urban areas  
Approximately 100 km2    

Water samples

Water samples collected in the Mabibi - Sibaya area, as shown in  figure 2, were preserved and analysed on return to the laboratory. Table 4 lists the preliminary results compared with standard clean values (Kempster et al. 1980). Sample W1 is from an enclosed pan, W4 is from a borehole, and sample W5 is ocean water. Samples W2 and W3 are from Lake Sibaya.

Sample site

W1

W2

W3

W4

W5

W6

Standard ‘clean
water’ value

Ammonium mg/l

0.133

0.460

0

0

0.317

0.800

1

Sulphate mg/l

0

0

0

0

0

0

200 ß

Nitrite mg/l

0.300

0.316

0

0.380

0.139

0.165

6

Nitrate mg/l

15.9

1.0

5.3

17.2

15.4

0

6

Chloride mg/l

3.5

37.5

17.9

1.3

51.4

5.2

100

Calcium mg/l

38

19

84

0

0

0

32

Total phosphate mg/l

2.98

4.60

3.21

1.74

0.85

2.00

-

Ortho phosphate mg/l

0.02

0.02

0

0.02

0

0.02

1

Suspended solids mg/l

0

0

0.02

0

0.006

0

25

Conductivity ms/cm

8.9

12.6

134.0

16.1

-

-

75

Turbidity TN

10

15

12

12

-

-

75

Magnesium mg/l

9

9

10

4

228

5

30

Sodium mg/l

43

69

80

39

12800

38

100

Potassium mg/l

7

11

11

3

2

5

50

Zinc mg/l

0.09

0.11

0

0.10

0.03

0

3

Iron mg/l

2.16

0.01

0

0.31

0.42

0.72

0.1

Manganese mg/l

0.02

0

0

0.04

-

-

0.05

Copper mg/l

0.05

0.030

0

0

-

-

0.03

Dissolved solids mg/l

55.8

78.9

837.5

100.6

-

-

450

pH

-

-

7.23

-

-

-

6.5 – 9.0

COD

1.9

13.8

13.3

6.3

-

-

75

0 = below range of detection
- = not measured

Nitrate, phosphate and sodium are key indicators of trophic state. Nitrate values for W1 and W4 are elevated and suggest reduced flushing and high bacteria counts. High nitrate levels in sample W4 from Rocktail Bay are probably due to the release of nutrients from septic tanks near the borehole. Calcium levels are generally high due to leaching from sandy soils. The high levels of calcium and suspended solids in sample W3 are probably the result of bird activity. Levels of iron in sample W1 are high suggesting anoxic conditions in the enclosed pan. Turbidity is low in all samples. Sodium is below the fresh water standard value, hence Lake Sibaya, the borehole and the enclosed pan are free of saltwater contamination. Lake Sibaya is a relic estuary that became closed to the sea less than 30 000 years ago, so explaining the higher salt content here and in the surrounding soils. Phosphate levels are relatively low and together with the low levels of nitrogen compounds, Lake Sibaya (samples W2 and W3) can be considered oligotrophic (Allanson, B. R., 1979) and free of discernable human impact at this time.

Demographic surveys

Questionnaire surveys were conducted on the beach amongst the visiting tourists. Most visitors were South Africans in family units of five to eight in 4-wheel-drive vehicles- snorkeling amongst the reefs and enjoying the day in the sun. Little interaction was detected between the locals and tourists, except for the fishermen. Of the visitors interviewed, all expressed the need for ecological preservation and hoped future development would be minimal. Improvement of road access or coastal facilities was not desired. Many tourists came to get-away-from-it-all and didn’t want increased traffic. The local community at Mabibi held a different opinion toward development as outlined in tables 5 - 8.

Table 5. Types of tourist structure and activities present in the community, ranked by number of respondents in agreement with their need for development.   Tourist structures and activities
1. Camps  
2. Nature trials  
3. Fishing / Angling  
4. Diving  
5. Boat Trips  
Table 6. Present needs for development, 
ranked by number of respondents 
in agreement with their development.
 
Development  
1. Schools  
2. Employment  
3. Tourist facilities - 2 camps  
4. Clinic  
5. Houses  
6. Postal services  
Table 7. Development that would improve the community, ranked by number of respondents in agreement with development.   Community members Nature Conservation Service staff
1. More schools   1. Improve schools  
2. Creation of jobs   2. Increase employment  
3. Improve health care services   3. Increase tourist facilities  
4. Improve roads   4. Provide clinics  
5. Build a training centre   5. Provide houses  
Table 8.  Potential for tourism development, ranked by number of respondents in agreement with development.   Community members Nature Conservation Service staff
1. Boating   1. Cultural tourism  
2. Horse riding  

2. More camps  

3. Fishing   3. Snorkeling  
4. Bird watching    

5. Cultural

 

Most respondents in the community wanted increased development, better roads, water and electricity, more jobs, etc. Many felt that development was being hindered by the NCS. Members of the Mabibi community have some negative perceptions of conservation. These include:

The reality is that:

We interviewed NCS staff on marine biology projects, local staff development and the profitability of its operations. Many employees considered it prestigious to work in conservation but complained about salaries. The NCS are moving toward privatizing the tourism interface and focusing on conservation of the environment. Plans to ‘sell off’ less profitable camps were mentioned. This evolution in tourism service delivery will require a scientific basis to underpin appropriate management decisions.

A number of interviews were conducted with managers of private resorts, in particular at Rocktail Bay. Their operation is well run and aims at international tourists. They have 5 managers and 15 support staff for 20 beds arranged as 8 tree houses in the coastal bush. Personal service is evident. The landscaping merges suitably with man-made structures that are tucked behind the primary dune and away from the wind. They operate twice-daily outings, taking people snorkeling, walking, or bird watching. The relationship with the local community is optimal, and levies are paid to ensure some profits are recycled locally, in addition to staff salaries.

 4. Discussion and Recommendations

The Maputaland field survey established the feasibility and need for long-term coastal zone monitoring and looked at some of the appropriate data to collect. The field exposure enabled logistical knowledge to be gained so that future surveys can be carried out successfully. Water, soil, climate and social data were analysed. Water quality results showed unpolluted conditions in and near Lake Sibaya. Soil analyses indicated poor nutrient levels unsuited for crop farming and grazing. The climate of the area is pleasant, but development plans will need to consider the strong coastal winds. The social data revealed conflicts between development needs by local communities and the desire for conservation by tourists and NCS staff.

Observational programme and key questions

A long-term monitoring campaign is needed in the coastal zone. The monitoring should include photographic surveys and bio-diversity assessments. On the physical side, sand profiles, and observations of winds, temperatures, currents, and waves are needed. For monitoring of fertility and pollution, soil and water analysis needs to continue to construct baseline data in support of on-going development. Socio-economic factors need to be quantified using demographic surveys of local communities and visiting tourists, together with measurements of traffic levels.

Some questions to be addressed in this long-term monitoring project include:

The overall goal of further work will be to establish the pathways of tropical bio-diversity in the Maputaland coastal zone, to establish land-ocean interactions as a prototype for other regions.

Key issues for coastal management

This area has relatively few tourist development projects. It is one of the most rural areas in South Africa with the lowest literacy rates, highest unemployment rates, limited infrastructure and few community facilities. Wise practices for coastal zone management should include the following key points:

  1. Environmental education and a framework for organization: the on-going work needs to address the local communities’ needs to understand coastal management and its role to protect the long-term sustainability of the environment. Villagers need to manage their resources effectively. Educational efforts should be directed toward government representatives, conservation bodies and local communities. Key individuals from all sectors should be drawn in so that there is little resistance to implementation. Coastal zone management must lie within the national, provincial, tribal, and local legal framework, to reduce the potential for conflict in the decision making process.

  2. Development and planning: Developments in the area should be planned within the context of a coastal management policy involving land-use zoning for housing, community infrastructure, tourism, etc. This will prevent degradation of the environment by eliminating practices leading to erosion, loss of visual appeal and pollution. Coastal management policy will have to be applied flexibly depending on particular circumstances. Wise practice involves forward planning based on scientific data to determine a sustainable carrying capacity for development.

  3. Effective communication and cultural attributes: it is important that key stakeholders participate in the decision making process. Local communities of the area have low literacy and therefore special care must be taken to ensure that communication between local communities and other stakeholders is effective. The local community in Maputaland represents an interesting cultural mix, which is diverse from those of visiting tourists. A wise practice would be to ensure this cultural aspect is identified and promoted within a coastal development framework so as to engender a sense of belonging. This will encourage cultural tourism and job opportunities based on indigenous knowledge. Development projects often exclude women from decision making, although women in rural communities play a vital role. It is therefore wise to ensure their involvement in all phases of the coastal management program.

  4. Infrastructure loading: Apart from the development of a commercial road route through Maputaland, further plans for infrastructure development are limited. A wise practice would be to include water, electricity and telecommunication infrastructure, to uplift a previously neglected region. To get this type of infrastructure into the area could be costly and may lead to environmental degradation, particularly in conservation areas. A wise practice would be to research small-scale self-sufficient developments that will require small infrastructure support in order to remain sustainable. A wise practice will be to gather scientific information to underpin development so that a coastal management program can integrate them to assist economic diversification and suitably exploit the coastal zone.

  5. Strategies for employment: Developments in Maputaland should strive to be labour intensive, rather than capital intensive. The implementation of technological measures should address community ideals, and underpin the need for further employment amongst local communities. It will be wise to tap into local resources for employment of tour guides in the area, builders of camps, cultural hosts etc. Development should occur around the resources of the locals so they can benefit as an integral part of the system. Training and institutional outreach programs should enable empowerment and economic mobility.

  6. Monitoring baseline and development nodes: since Maputaland has very little development, it would be wise to choose specific areas to test the practicalities of a coastal management policy. Considerable bio-physical data needs to be collected to enable an accurate evaluation. With the increase of development, there will be an increased demand for fresh produce. Poor farming practices carried out by local communities can result in a loss of biodiversity, the salinization of water resources, an increase in abstraction and a change in natural ecosystems with human encroachment. An increase in land, air and water pollution is to be expected. It would be wise to include in a coastal management program a dimension on agricultural upliftment and waste recycling.

  7. Environmental health:  it would be a wise practice to inform local communities during the initial stages of any coastal development, the consequences of refuse, sewage, pollution, etc. so as to enable appropriate decisions to be made. Maputaland’s health infrastructure is limited and potential developers would need to cater for certain in-house services and be made aware of disease incidence.

The benefits deriving from development of the coastal zone can be guided by a well-informed management program underpinned by scientifically sound interpretations based on the collection of long-term data sets. Local communities, developers and government departments can pull together to ensure that ecological and economic benefits are sustainable in the long-term.

Acknowledgements

UNESCO is thanked for sponsoring the on-going field work in support of coastal zone monitoring and biodiversity assessments in Maputaland, South Africa.

References

Allanson, B. R., 1979, Lake Sibaya, W. Junk Publ., The Hague.

Environmental Potential Atlas for Southern Africa, 1997, ed. W F vanRiet et al., University of Pretoria, vanSchaik Publishers, Pretoria, 60 pp.

Ecology of Maputaland, 1980, ed. M. N. Bruton and K H Cooper, Wildlife Society of South Africa, 560 pp.  – contributions of Maud ch. 1, Schumann and Orren ch. 2, Pitman ch. 3, Berry ch. 10, Boschoff ch. 11, and Begg ch. 29 were used.

Kempster, P. L, Hattingh, W. H. J., and vanVliet, H. R., 1980, Summarised water quality criteria, Dept. Water Affairs, Tech. Report TR 108.

KZ Natal Lubombo Spatial development Initiative, 1998, Framework planning for tourism development, G Muller Assoc, Durban.

Odendal, A, and Schoeman, G., 1990, Tourism and rural development in Maputaland: A case study of Kosi Bay, Development Southern Africa, 7, 194-206.

UNESCO, 1998, Coastal Panel of the Global Ocean Observing System, Curitiba, Brazil, GOOS rept. 63, 32 pp + app.

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