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Water SA

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


VAN DER WAALS, JH et al. Review of soil form and wetness indicators for wetland delineation in South Africa. Water SA [online]. 2024, vol.50, n.2, pp.211-230. ISSN 1816-7950.

Wetland delineation in South Africa incorporates soil form and soil wetness indicators, requiring formal soil classification and description of soil redox morphology. The current wetland definition used administratively in South Africa focuses on saturated (hydric) soil signatures within plant root zones. Saturated soil horizons deeper than plant root zones fall outside the 50 cm criterion in the local approach as well as the accepted zone in USA literature. The field of hydropedology accommodates the classification of the various hydrologically active horizons and provides a tool for the handling of horizons with ephemeral wetness. This approach has been variably accepted by mandated authorities in South Africa. The South African soil classification system has evolved through three editions over the past 50 years while retaining the same redox morphology understanding. However, despite the concepts and context of redox morphology having been thoroughly technically adopted by soil scientists, this is not the case within the wetland research and management environment. This especially because the classification system is structured differently from other international systems, and the South African landscape is geologically ancient with mature soils, introducing challenges to resource assessment specialists who rely on international norms and approaches for wetland assessment. This paper reviews the various components of soil classification and redox morphology based on Fe and Mn minerals within the context of the South African soil classification system, the field of hydropedology and wetland delineation indicators. We provide a qualitative correlation between the various diagnostic horizons and materials in the system and their related redox morphology contexts that are relevant to wetland assessment, delineation, and protection in South Africa. This paper therefore aims to serve as a reference point for the description and correlation of various soil hydrological parameters used in formal assessments.

Keywords : South African soil classification; system; redox morphology; Fe and Mn minerals; wetland soil indicators; wetland delineation.

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