The Rufiji Estuary: Climate Change, Anthropogenic Pressures, Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptive Management Strategies

  • Greg M. WagnerEmail author
  • Rose Sallema-Mtui
Part of the Estuaries of the World book series (EOTW)


The Rufiji Estuary supports the largest mangrove area (48,030 ha) in Tanzania, which, together with nearby seagrass beds, numerous coral reefs and islands, form an interacting seascape that provides invaluable ecological services to the Western Indian Ocean. For centuries, the Rufiji resources have been utilized sustainably by coastal people for food, firewood and building materials. However, in recent decades, the Estuary has been severely affected by a complexity of both climate change factors and anthropogenic pressures. A WWF/GEF Coastal Resilience to Climate Change Project was conducted between 2007 and 2009, involving repeated quantitative ecological plot assessment, rapid assessment, remote sensing (based on satellite images taken in 1991 and 2000) and recording indigenous knowledge through social science methods. Change analysis showed several definite trends. Along exposed seaward edges (not sheltered by reefs or islands), there was drastic erosion and mangrove loss attributed to increased wave activity and sea level rise, with over 25 m of coastline being lost along sections of the estuary over a two-year period. Along other seaward edges, some accretion and mangrove growth occurred due to being sheltered from wave action and having adequate sediment load from Bumba channel, which has received the main flow of Rufiji since the shift of the river in 1978. The 1998 El-Nino flooding event caused drastic mangrove loss in riverine areas. On several landward edges of the delta, migration of mangroves inland was detected. Overall, however, losses of mangroves in the Rufiji were clearly greater than gains. Anthropogenic pressures include deforestation in the watershed area and large scale cutting of mangroves for timber and conversion to rice farms. Recommended mitigation and adaptive management strategies include the establishment of buffer zones, mangrove planting, awareness raising and enforcement.


Rufiji Estuary Seascape DPSIR analytical framework Climate change Socioeconomic factors Anthropogenic Pressures Environmental state changes Vulnerability assessment Impacts on human wellbeing Mitigation Adaptive management strategies 



We would like to wholeheartedly thank the more than 70 people who assisted with various aspects of the field work, including villagers residing in the area, staff members of government offices and the Mangrove Management Project as well as research assistants. We would also like to thank the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad, India for use of their facilities in undertaking the remote sensing analysis. In particular, we would like to express our deep appreciation to Global Environment Facility (GEF) Medium-Sized Project, under United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for supporting this study and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for providing management and co-funding.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MacEwan UniversityEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.National Environmental Management CouncilDar es SalaamTanzania

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