College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

PhD Research into Use of Remote Sensing to Classify and Delineate SA Wetlands

Doctoral candidate Mr Basanda Nondlazi has researched the use of ecological remote sensing science innovation in wetlands to solve the water security crisis.

Nondlazi is in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and a participant in the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS 2021).

He says results of his research will, for example, improve the National Biodiversity Assessment of Wetlands and the South African Environmental Management Act.

He has also published papers in the International Wetland Journal, with a five-year impact factor of 2.653 (2020).

Nondlazi’s research work has been widely lauded and recognised, earning him accolades such as the South African Rising Star finalist 2019 and the Mail & Guardian Science Voices finalist.

Nondlazi is also a member of the WITS chapter of the Golden Key Awardees’ Honorary Society through his master’s degree thesis in ecosystems ecology. He has over 13 years’ experience in environmental science.

‘Being in the forefront of understanding how the natural environment is important to our survival as human beings and many other life-forms,’ inspires him to do his research. Nondlazi says he is also inspired through his recognition of the importance of understanding how the environment works and the continued journey of pursuing a deeper understanding of how it can be better-taken care of.

In his research which aims to improve how wetlands are monitored, he combines the discipline of remote sensing with ecology to make sizeable and crucial contributions to wetland protection and conservation through improving the accuracy of wetland boundaries and developing new ways of grouping wetlands using ecological principles.

‘My research outcomes encourage South African policymakers to increase the wetland buffering prescription – outlined in our legislation, the South African Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) which was gazetted on 13 April, 2017 – from 30m to 100m, making it possible to increase the wetland conservation prescription outlined in Environmental Impact Assessments for new development near wetlands,’ said Nondlazi.

‘This progress will see us as South African ecologists sub-classifying one of the most abundant hydrogeomorphic type unit, the depressions, thus improving their conservation and protection. The National Biodiversity Assessment on wetlands in South Africa previously depended on human accuracy in the desktop delineation of wetland boundaries; however, now they have the opportunity to compare human accuracy with empirical data from direct measurements and boundaries derived from remote sensing.’

Nondlazi, who is looking forward to the opportunity to profile his work at PRIS 2021 at UKZN, is excited about the possibility of collaborations, even though he is on the lookout for job offers. ‘Future wars will be about water; let us protect wetland systems.’

To find out more about Nondlazi’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied