WiDs Special Issue

We are pleased to announce a call for papers for the Special Issue “Wetlands in Drylands: Diverse Perspectives for Dynamic Landscapes” to be published in Wetland Ecology and Management.

The deadline for initial submission has been extended to 17th July 2021.  Please consider submitting your best work to this special issue to support the WiDs Research Network’s activities.

The journal’s announcement with submission guidelines and other related information is at: https://www.springer.com/journal/11273/updates/17854842

The Managing Guest Editor for the Special Issue is Dr Suzanne Grenfell (Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa). Email: sgrenfell@sun.ac.za

The Guest Editors are:

Dr Michael Grenfell (University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa). Email: mgrenfell@uwc.ac.za

Dr Emily O’Gorman (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia). Email: emily.ogorman@mq.edu.au

Dr Tim Ralph (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia).         Email: tim.ralph@mq.edu.au

Dr Adriana Mehl (Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, Argentina) Email: adrianamehl@gmail.com

Prof. Fred Ellery (Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa) Email: f.ellery@ru.ac.za

Prof. Stephen Tooth (Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK) Email: set@aber.ac.uk

We solicit papers that:

  • consolidate, extend or challenge current global understanding of wetlands in drylands (WiDs) hydro-geomorphology, biogeomorphology, biogeochemistry, ecology, and social-ecology;
  • or illustrate the linkages between bio-physical, social, and cultural processes and practices, and their implications for ecosystem service provision;
  • or promote sustainable system-scale management and restoration of WiDs ecosystems, social-ecological/cultural systems, and the services they provide to households and communities in dryland environments.

Context and background

WiDs have distinctive hydro-geomorphological, biogeochemical, and ecological features that require carefully tailored research and management approaches. Relative to wetlands in humid regions, WiDs are: i) less likely to be sustained by meteoric inputs alone, and must overcome high annual meteoric water deficits (mean annual precipitation << mean annual evaporation), through well-defined links to channel inflow or groundwater discharge; ii) subject to more frequent and prolonged periods of desiccation, which can lead to evaporation-driven chemical sedimentation, and which may combine with fire and aeolian deflation to reduce organic matter accumulation; and iii) frequently characterised by downstream channel narrowing, channel breakdown and floodout development (Tooth & McCarthy, 2007; Ellery et al., 2009).

Interactions between hydro-geomorphological, biogeomorphic and biogeochemical processes in WiDs are a cornerstone of regulatory ecosystem service provision, and the surface or near-surface expression of water, and associated provision of foods, medicinal plants and building materials, assumes a special importance in dry and climatically variable environments (Tooth et al., 2015). Thus, there is a need for holistic, integrated pure and applied analyses of WiDs systems and their ecosystem services, especially in the current context of an increase in stressors from climate change, and human activities such as agriculture, mining, and water/sediment regime modification (TWIDRN, 2014).

Wetlands in Drylands Research Network

More than a decade ago, Tooth and McCarthy (2007) and Ellery et al. (2009) synthesised an emerging knowledge base that highlighted the important role of geomorphology in shaping WiDs over decadal to millennial timescales, and summarised the key physical controls (hydro-geomorphological, sedimentological and biogeochemical) that distinguish these systems from their better-studied humid-region counterparts. Building from these syntheses, the Wetlands in Drylands Research Network was established at an inaugural meeting held near Parys, South Africa in November 2014. The Network is a collaborative international initiative with the goal of promoting holistic scientific analysis and sustainable management of wetlands in drylands, and their surrounding hydrological, geomorphological, ecological, and social landscapes, in order to emphasise the benefits these systems bring to humanity (TWIDRN, 2014). The Network coordinated a special session at the 10th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference, Changshu, China, 18-24th September 2016 on ‘Wetlands in drylands: enigmatic but neglected ecosystems valuable for human wellbeing’. In July 2017, a second Network meeting was held at Macquarie University, Australia, with the theme ‘Dynamic Landscapes’. Network members have since contributed to numerous workshops and conference symposia in Jordan, South Africa, the UK and Argentina, expanding the geographical reach of Network membership in the process. More than half a decade after establishing the Network, and given the continuing pressures on WiDs, the time is now opportune for a state-of-the-art, global assessment of WiDs research and management.


Ellery W, Grenfell M, Grenfell S, Kotze D, McCarthy TS, Tooth S, Grundling PL, Beckedahl H, Le Maitre D, Ramsay L. 2009. WET-Origins: controls on the distribution and dynamics of wetlands in South Africa. Water Research Commission Report TT334/09, Pretoria.

Tooth S, McCarthy TS. 2007. Wetlands in drylands: geomorphological and sedimentological characteristics, with emphasis on examples from southern Africa. Progress in Physical Geography 31: 3-41.

Tooth S, Grenfell MC, Thomas A, Ellery WN. 2015. Wetlands in Drylands: ‘Hotspots’ of Ecosystem Services in Marginal Environments. GSDR 2015 Science Brief, United Nations. Available at http://wetlandsindrylands.net.

TWIDRN (The Wetlands in Drylands Research Network). 2014. Parys Declaration on the Importance of Wetlands in Drylands. Available at http://wetlandsindrylands.net.

a collaborative international initiative to promote the science and management of these important landscapes and ecosystems