Original Articles

A REVIEW OF THE MACROBENTHIC FAUNA OF THE MHLATHUZE ESTUARY: SETTING THE ECOLOGICAL RESERVE

Published in: Southern African Journal of Aquatic Sciences
Volume 24, issue 1-2, 1998 , pages: 111–129
DOI: 10.1080/10183469.1998.9631417
Author(s): C.F. MackayCoastal Research Unit of Zululand, South Africa, D.P. CyrusCoastal Research Unit of Zululand, South Africa

Abstract

This paper reviews historical and current ecological information on macrobenthos from the Mhlathuze Estuary before and after development of the Richards Bay Harbour. The fauna is described in terms of the potential influence of a change in freshwater inflow to the system and the requirements for the setting of an Ecological Reserve. Over 95% of the species recorded were primarily marine and to a lesser extent estuarine in origin. Fauna typical of sheltered, soft-bottomed marine environments inhabited the estuary, whereas estuarine fauna was limited to the canalised sections of the Mhlathuze River. Certain areas were characterised by opportunistic species indicative of disturbed or organically enriched sediments while others sustained a high diversity of more sensitive climax species, several of which are endemic to southern Africa. The majority of species belonged to the Class Polychaeta but the estuarine mudcrab Paratylodiplax blephariskios dominated the benthic biomass. The pre-feasibility stage of the Ecological Reserve Determination indicated that a reduction in freshwater input would negatively impact upon the already reduced estuarine component at the head of the estuary. Conversely, if freshwater flow to the estuary is augmented, sediment transport via the river could increase without there being an. improved catchment management policy in place.

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