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Keywords:

  • fluvial geomorphology;
  • hippopotamus;
  • Okavango Delta;
  • wetland

The Okavango Delta is a large wetland system situated in northern Botswana. The hippopotamus forms an integral part of this dynamic ecosystem, as it exerts a catalytic effect on geomorphological change. In the distal reaches of the wetland, regular movement of hippos to feeding grounds results in the development of incised channels, which are kept clear of vegetation and act as nodes for swamp expansion. Hippos maintain pathways in backswamp areas, which lead to the development of new channel systems during channel avulsion. They create breaches in the vegetation levees which flank channels in the permanent swamps, causing diversion of water and sediment to backswamp areas. Their paths often lead to lakes in the permanent swamps. During channel avulsion, diversion of a channel into lakes may occur via these paths, which can result in lake closure.