South African National Parks (SANParks) Scientists studying the Olifants River within the Kruger National Park, part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park have been monitoring water quality effects on the health of the aquatic ecosystem. Recent satellite observations are suggesting the rapid build-up of a potential harmful Algal Bloom in the lower Olifants River, as it flows through a deep gorge with a large Nile crocodile population before it enters the large Massingir Dam in the Republic of Mozambique.

The scientists have embarked on a detailed monitoring program to assess the impacts of this algal bloom on the crocodile population and the aquatic ecosystem more broadly.

These conditions have arisen due to a combination of several factors including very high lake levels in Massingir Dam following the good summer rains, increased water clarity allowing mono-cellular algae to access sunlight and build up large biomass; high nutrient inputs (pollution) from upstream catchment areas; and the warm early winter temperatures experienced an increase in surface water temperature.

SANParks is also keeping park and catchment management partners informed in South Africa and Mozambique and through this collaboration intends to mitigate negative impacts of this event on the health of the ecosystem of the Olifants River and those that depend on its resources downstream.

Head of Conservation and Area Integrity Management in Kruger National Park, Mr Danie Pienaar says “we have learned valuable scientific lessons about the mechanisms giving rise to Pansteatitis outbreaks and the impact on the park’s crocodile population following the outbreak of this disease in 2008-2009. This time we are at least forewarned and will do proactive monitoring and research to track the situation together with our Mozambican colleagues”.

Issued by South African National Parks, Kruger National Park – Communications & Marketing Department.

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