A synthesis of past, current and future research for protection and management of papyrus (Cyperus papyrus L.) wetlands in Africa
van Dam, A. A.
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Papyrus wetlands (dominated by the giant sedge Cyperus papyrus L.) occur throughout eastern, central and southern Africa and are important for biodiversity, for water quality and quantity regulation and for the livelihoods of millions of people. To draw attention to the importance of papyrus wetlands, a special session entitled ‘‘The ecology of livelihoods in papyrus wetlands’’ was organized at the 9th INTECOL Wetlands Conference in Orlando, Florida in June 2012. Papers from the session, combined with additional contributions, were collected in a special issue of Wetlands Ecology and Management. The current paper reviews ecological and hydrological characteristics of papyrus wetlands, summarizes their ecosystem services and sustainable use, provides an overview of papyrus research to date, and looks at policy development for papyrus wetlands. Based on this review, the paper provides a synthesis of research and policy priorities for papyrus wetlands and introduces the contributions in the special issue. Main conclusions are that (1) there is a need for better estimates of the area covered by papyrus wetlands. Limited evidence suggests that the loss of papyrus wetlands is rapid in some areas; (2) there is a need for a better understanding and modelling of the regulating services of papyrus wetlands to support trade-off analysis and improve economic valuation; (3) research on papyrus wetlands should include assessment of all ecosystem services (provisioning, regulating, habitat, cultural) so that trade-offs can be determined as the basis for sustainable management strategies (‘wise use’); (4) more research on the governance, institutional and socio-economic aspects of papyrus wetlands is needed to assist African governments in dealing with the challenges of conserving wetlands in the face of growing food security needs and climate change. The papers in the special issue address a number of these issues.