Evaluating ecological assembly rules for aquatic-terrestrial transition zones in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


One of the main aims of community ecology is to understand the drivers of biodiversity, including how and why so many species can coexist. In flood-pulse driven systems, communities switch from terrestrial to aquatic species based on a range of environmental filters that operate across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Quantifying the relative importance of different mechanisms, including dispersal, competition and predation, that occur in these heterogeneous habitats will provide insights about conditions that promote biodiversity across a wide range of ecosystems. A central aim of this project will be the collection of empirical datasets related to aquatic invertebrate biodiversity along an aquatic-terrestrial transition zone in a pristine flood-pulsing wetland, the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The field collections will be used to explore community composition, interactions, food web structure, and adaptations to dry periods. The target group will be aquatic macroinvertebrates, with a focus on Chironomidae, since this group is especially relevant as bioindicator. Very few studies have focused on aquatic macroinvertebrates in the Delta, and surveys at species level are very scarce, therefore, this project will seek to provide resolution to understand the local and regional biodiversity, contributing, in this way, to Aichi biodiversity targets (https://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/).


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007229/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2027
2235786 Studentship NE/S007229/1 30/09/2019 31/03/2024 Luis Moliner Cachazo
NE/W503137/1 03/03/2021 30/03/2022
2235786 Studentship NE/W503137/1 30/09/2019 31/03/2024 Luis Moliner Cachazo
Description The project is still ongoing with the processing of samples, so far we have found a phylum (moss-animals, Bryozoa) and 36 species not recorded before in the Okavango Delta, of which 32 are national records (never found before in any part of Botswana). The new national records include 30 species of non-biting midges (Diptera: Chironomidae) and (at least) 2 species of Bryozoa. We have also found 16 genera of other macroinvertebrates (beetles, mayflies and aquatic mites).

Since the knowledge about the distribution of these taxa in southern Africa is very patchy, this results will help to fill some gaps in Botswana.

We have also created a database compiling around 2,234 freshwater species described from the Delta in the literature, with information about their conservation status, locations where they were found, ecology, etc. this database is about to be published, and includes many vectors of human and cattle diseases, such as mosquitoes and flukes.
Exploitation Route The database (once published) will be of interest not only for universities and scientific institutions in Botswana, but also for taxonomists in the southern African region. We are collaborating with the Okavango Research Institute, associated to the University of Botswana, and they can use this resource for their future monitoring programmes.
Sectors Environment

Description Department of Geography Small Grants Fund, Round 2
Amount £300 (GBP)
Organisation King's College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2021 
End 07/2021
Description NatureMetrics 
Organisation NatureMetrics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution eDNA samples from the Okavango Delta
Collaborator Contribution eDNA analysis
Impact no outputs yet
Start Year 2021
Description Okavango Research Institute (University of Botswana) 
Organisation University of Botswana
Department Okavango Research Institute
Country Botswana 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Database of freshwater organisms present in the Delta at species level. New species records in the Delta and Botswana (local and national records). Photographic ID guide.
Collaborator Contribution Remote sampling
Impact Scientific papers to be submitted and published
Start Year 2021