This project was conducted under the umbrella of the World Bank/Global Environment Fund (GEF) Shire River Basin Management Programme and had three key objectives:
- To improve understanding of the functional ecology of the Elephant Marsh, including establishing the Baseline Ecological Status (BES) of key components including vegetation, aquatic invertebrates, fish, herpetofauna, mammals and birds;
- To assess the feasibility of designating the Elephant Marsh as a protected area and Ramsar wetland site of international significance; and
- To identify strategies and development options that would build the resilience of local communities to environmental change including those associated with agriculture, natural resources and wetland regulating services.
The project involved socio-economic, hydromorphological and ecological sub-studies on the Elephant Marsh, a wetland system strongly influences by the annual flood cycle that has measurable effects on biodiversity and livelihoods. The sub-studies were undertaken by international specialists using a range of methods for collecting data on hydrology, species abundance and diversity, livelihoods and ecosystem services. These were presented in individual sub-study reports on hydromorphology, biodiversity, livelihoods and ecosystem services. The data collected through the sub-studies was used to provide the evidence to support the establishment of the Elephant Marsh as a Ramsar site.
Information and data from the sub-studies was also used to explore the potential outcomes under alternative River Basin climate and development scenarios and provide the scientific basis for the development of a draft management strategy, incorporating lessons from other wetlands in southern Africa and beyond. The draft management plan sought to identify and address the threats facing the Elephant Marsh and enhance the contributions of ecosystem services to local livelihoods