Page 25 - Discover Botswana 23rd Edition 2023
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 Understanding the past to manage
the future
We have very little documented evidence of what the Okavango Delta was like before the 1850s; there is the traditional knowledge and oral history told through stories by the Wayei, Hambukushu and other local people of the system, and then the writings of explorers and hunters like Livingstone and Selous. However, this anecdotal evidence does not provide a complete early scientific baseline for the Okavango Delta, or the rest of the basin.
In 2016, the WBT signed a long-term collaboration agreement with the National Geographic Society (NGS) to form the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project (NGOWP), which brought funding and institutional support to continue the research, and enable establishing of more baselines, so that we could truly begin to understand what drives this dynamic river system.
 Constant measurement is key to protection
Our methodology was initially quite simple: counting wetland birds and mapping significant changes in habitat type along the initial transect route. As we added more scientists and their diverse fields of study, our baseline ecological datasets became larger and more comprehensive. As a visual record, we started taking 360-degree habitat photographs, one per minute, and stitched them together as virtual transects on the Earth Views Platform. We now geotag sightings of every bird, all wildlife and livestock, impact of human habitation, and any other points of interest.
We are constantly measuring water quality and flow rate to detect any significant changes, in order to advise government departments to act promptly at the first sign of harm, and make decisions based on empirical science. The comprehensive network of hydrological and meteorological monitoring stations we are deploying throughout the basin will revolutionise our ability to respond to indicators of declining ecosystem health. They will allow for advanced warning and planning in relation to the extent of the annual flood, or pulse, which has significant implications for the livelihoods of local communities, traditional farmers, and tourism operators in the Okavango Delta.
Other scientific data collection includes sampling aquatic invertebrates and fish to complement frequent
Top: Understanding the dynamics of this wetland takes teams of specialists hundreds of man hours to better record and understand the ways of the water.
Top left: There are over 80 species of fish recorded in the delta system attracting and sustaining many birds reliant on them as a food source such as this Giant kingfisher.
Left: All in a day’s work as a researcher wades into the shallows of any one of the numerous river systems to study the many different life forms found here. 25

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