Global Change Research and Monitoring in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountain System (South Africa-Lesotho)
Michele Toucher – South African Earth Observation Network
Byron Gray – South African Earth Observation Network
Susan Janse van Rensburg – South African Earth Observation Network
Kent Lawrence – University of Zululand
Siphiwe Mfeka – South African Earth Observation Network
The economic development and wellbeing of society in South Africa are contingent on key ecosystem services. Water is considered one of South Africa’s potentially key limiting factors for economic development. The Drakensberg mountains have been designated a strategic water source area, and to ensure the continued sustainable supply of water, it is imperative that the potential impacts of environmental change be understood, particularly considering that the climate change signal is often stronger in high altitude regions which are considered to be more sensitive to changes in climate. To be able to detect changes, reduce uncertainty, and understand environmental change impacts, long-term climatological and hydrological monitoring is essential. The long history of intensive data collection, the ongoing and expanded monitoring by SAEON, and knowledge that exists surrounding the Cathedral Peak research catchments in the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife-managed uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, has made them an ideal site to begin to understand changes that have occurred and the impacts of these. Consistent positive trends in temperature have been observed. Trends in rainfall records indicate a drying through the historical record, particularly during autumn. The 2018/2019 summer was one of the driest summers on record. Cumulatively the rainfall recorded for the 2018/2019 summer was 483 mm below the historical summer average (1948 â€“ 1987). These changes have had an influence on the fire danger index for the region over time. Decreasing trends are evident in the historical streamflow records which correspond to the drying trends in the historical rainfall records. With continued monitoring and a better understanding of the processes driving the changes in hydrological response, resilient and adaptive water management can be ensured.