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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950
Print version ISSN 0378-4738


VAN HUYSSTEEN, CW  and  JOHNSON, TL. Evaluating the use of iron-coated tubes for wetland delineation in South Africa: A pilot study in the Kruger National Park. Water SA [online]. 2020, vol.46, n.3, pp.393-403. ISSN 1816-7950.

The identification of hydric soils is important for wetland delineation and protection. South Africa currently uses the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) wetland delineation guidelines which can be subjective in certain contexts. A robust technical standard that can be legally conclusive is therefore required and should be developed for South African conditions. The National Technical Committee of Hydric Soils (NTCHS, 2007) in the United States of America has accepted the Indicator of Reduction in Soils (IRIS) tube methodology as a technical standard, but this had not yet been tested in South Africa. It is proposed that the NTCHS (2007) be adapted for use in South Africa. These Fe-coated tubes are installed into the soil and if reducing conditions are present, the Fe coating is removed. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of IRIS tubes as a technical standard for wetland delineation in South Africa. The study took place in three different wetland systems (Malahlapanga, Nshawu and the Tshuthsi spruit) in the Kruger National Park. Piezometers were installed in triplicate in each zone, and the water table, pH and Eh were recorded monthly. Soils were classified, soil wetness indicators identified, and vegetation described. The study took place from September 2012 to August 2013. The areal percentage of paint removed from the top 300 mm of the IRIS tubes was quantified by scanning the tubes and then compared to the DWAF wetland indicators. It was found that the DWAF indicators and the IRIS tube method were mostly in agreement; however, the conditions at the Tshutshi spruit were not favourable for Fe reduction, and hence the use of IRIS tubes, due to the high pH values recorded. The IRIS tubes were therefore a useful tool for wetland delineation in the majority of conditions, but are not recommended in high pH, sodic environments. Further research is recommended over a wider geographical area as well as testing the MIRIS methodology (Manganese Indicators of Reduction in Soils) in wetlands that would inhibit Fe reduction.

Keywords : guidelines; hydric soils; IRIS; reducing conditions; technical standard; wetland indicators.

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