Angola Namibia About Tutorial Glossary Documents Images Maps Google Earth go
Please provide feedback! Click for details
Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management
The River Basin
Climate and Weather
Water Quality
Ecology & Biodiversity
 Aquatic Ecology
 Function of Wetlands



send a comment




Wetlands are important habitats and biodiversity resources in the Kunene River basin. Key topics that will be discussed in this section include:

  • Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance;
  • Definition of wetlands;
  • Ramsar Sites in the basin; and
  • Wetlands in the basin.

The Ramsar Convention

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and is generally known as the Ramsar Convention.

It is an intergovernmental treaty that provides a recognised framework for national action and international cooperation in the conservation and wise use of wetlands and the natural resources associated with them (Ramsar 2009).

One of the fundamental concepts of the Ramsar convention is Wise Use, which is defined as "the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development".

Definition of Wetlands

Under the Ramsar convention, wetlands are defined as follows:

  • Article 1.1: "...wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres."
  • Article 2.1: "[Wetlands] may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands".
The Etosha Pan - a Ramsar site near the Kunene Basin.
Source: NASA 2009
( click to enlarge )

Ramsar Sites in the Basin

The Etosha Pan together with Lake Oponono, and the Cuvelai Drainage in Namibia is a wetland-site defined by the Ramsar convention near the Kunene basin. The Oshakati Pan System - located between the Etosha Pan and the Kunene River - is an important area for birds consisting of hundreds of pans and drainage lines. These sites are faunally and florally interdependent with the Kunene watershed particularly through migratory species of birds and mammals.

Once the largest game reserve in the world, the Etosha National Parks surface area was reduced in the sixties to its present size of approximately 22 000 km². It owes its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression. In the rainy season the pan fills with water draining southwards from Angola via a delta-like system of shallow rivers and seasonal depressions, known in Namibia as iishana (oshana in the singular) and in Angola as chanas.

Etosha is probably the most important biodiversity resource near the basin. Its wildlife and unique landscape are the main draw for tourism in Namibia.

The Kunene River has no Ramsar Sites registered with the Convention on Wetlands of international importance directly inside the basin.

Angola has not signed up to the Ramsar Convention.

Wetlands in the Basin

Floodplains are absent from the Namibian section of the Lower Kunene. Only the middle section of the river in Angola forms floodplain habitats. Mupa National Park and Bicuar National Park are located around these floodplains.

The Kunene River mouth estuary is a small wetland recognized as an important bird area at the Atlantic Ocean. It is an isolated oasis in the desert on the border of Angola and Namibia between the Iona National Park and the Skeleton Coast National Park. The lagoon and the vegetated islands are probably the most biologically productive areas in the Lower Kunene (Anderson et al. 2001).

Cape cormorants resting.
Source: Mengel 2008
( click to enlarge )
Water lily (Nymphaea Hermine).
Source: Quick 2008
( click to enlarge )




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

Explore the interactions of living organisms in aquatic environments

Examine how the hydrologic cycle moves water through and around the earth