Estuaries are under increasing pressure owing to agricultural, urban and industrial developments in their catchments and their status as favoured sites for coastal development and recreation. Effective research on South Africa estuaries requires the synthesis of available scientific knowledge to efficiently address management concerns and so ensure the sustainable utilisation of estuaries. The approach of the Consortium for Estuarine Research and Management to these problems and the results of a co-ordinated research programme on decision support for the management and conservation of estuarine systems are described in this paper. While the importance and current status of South African estuaries are considered, attention is devoted primarily to the development of an integrated modelling approach to the freshwater requirements of estuaries. In particular, the application of a linked system of five models to a case study, the Great Brak Estuary is described and the role of prediction in promoting wise decision making for estuaries is treated.

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