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Water SA

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


O'BRIEN, GC  and  WEPENER, V. Regional-scale risk assessment methodology using the Relative Risk Model (RRM) for surface freshwater aquatic ecosystems in South Africa. Water SA [online]. 2012, vol.38, n.2, pp.153-166. ISSN 1816-7950.

To maximise the long-term use of limited ecosystem services in South Africa, managers continually require approaches to optimise the establishment of balances between the use and protection of ecosystems to ensure sustainability. Surface freshwater aquatic ecosystems are dynamic and difficult to manage effectively. Sound management protocols that can identify and rank threats to these ecosystems are urgently required. The Regional-Scale Risk Assessment approach is carried out on a spatial scale and allows for the consideration of multiple sources of multiple stressors affecting multiple endpoints, with the inclusion of local ecosystem dynamics and the characteristics of the landscape that may affect the risk estimate. This paper presents an integrated approach to carry out regional-scale ecological risk assessments using a Relative Risk Model (RRM) adapted for South African conditions. The RRM consists of 10 procedural steps that are relatively easily applied. The use and application of the RRM within South Africa has the potential to provide resource users, resource conservators and regulators of surface aquatic ecosystems with a range of benefits. These benefits include the establishment of a validated, structured methodology that is sensitive to the dynamics of individual case studies, extremely informative, locally applicable and internationally comparable with other RRM assessments. The use of the RRM approach in South Africa has many advantages that outweigh some disadvantages. This approach has the potential to substantially contribute towards the ease and effectiveness of management of the balance between the use and protection of aquatic ecosystems in South Africa.

Keywords : Surface aquatic ecosystems; Regional-Scale Risk Assessment; Relative Risk Model.

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