Wetlands provide important ecosystem services in both rural and developed parts of South Africa, but are one of the country’s most threatened habitats. Therefore, there is a need to understand, conserve and restore them. Repeatable standards and accurate methods for collecting data can help achieve these goals. The purpose of this manual is to act as a resource to all wetland practitioners so that data collected can contribute to national and local projects through a standard and strategic process. This manual is a tool for wetland practitioners, at all levels, to improve procedures for mapping wetlands using a set of standards for data collection and storage, so that data feeds into national level databases such as the National Wetland Inventory, and informs national policy tools such as National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas.
The manual begins with an explanation of what a wetland is, and the different types of wetlands that one may encounter in the South African landscape. It then outlines an approach for designing a wetland mapping project and capturing data that has been tested and refined by several experts in the discipline. This section is followed by tips on recognising, digitising and classifying wetlands and human impacts on wetlands from desktop imagery and in the field. Examples of wetlands that have been mapped and classified are provided with searchable co-ordinates to enable the user to locate the wetland using a geobrowser such as Google Earth and further explore it from various angles. Several additional tools such as datasheets and checklists are provided. A step by step guide to basic delineation using free and licensed mapping software is shared in the appendices.