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Global Environmental Change Project

The SANParks Global Environmental Change Project (GEC) is assessing the status and threats of six drivers of global change for parks: alien species, climate change, emerging infectious diseases, habitat change, change in freshwater ecosystems, and the overexploitation of natural resources. The outcomes of the project will inform organizational policy and biodiversity management to support effective and sustainable conservation in the face of ongoing environmental change.

Protected areas (PA’s) are not buffered from the impacts of Global Environmental Change. Although PA’s by definition should suffer less, for example, from habitat loss and pollution than unprotected areas, they remain susceptible to drivers such as climate change and alien species invasion. They are also not entirely immune to habitat loss and pollution, with impacts from surrounding land uses impinging on PA effectiveness and performance.

The need to formally consider the implications of global environmental change for SANParks has been recognized within the organization and thus the GEC Project was initiated in 2009. The project focuses on the six main drivers of change listed above (Vitousek 1992, MEA 2005). All of these change drivers play a significant role in structuring ecosystems and in concert could change the face of parks irreversibly. The results from this project will feed directly into SANParks management and policy and will also be used to inform the revision of park management plans, as well as the newly adopted SANParks Biodiversity Monitoring System (McGeoch et al. 2011).

More information on the drivers of environmental change that are being assessed

The GEC Project is spearheaded by:

  • Nicola van Wilgen (Project Manager and Principle Researcher)
  • Melodie McGeoch (Project Leader: Conception and Research)
  • Stefanie Freitag (Project Leader: Policy & Management Implementation)

References

  • McGeoch, M. A., M. Dupolo, P. Novellie, H. Hendricks, S. Freitag, S. Ferreira, R. Grant, J. Kruger, H. Bezuidenhout, R. M. Randall, W. Vermeulen, T. Kraaij, I. A. Russell, M. H. Knight, S. Holness, and A. Oosthuizen. 2011. A strategic framework for biodiversity monitoring in South African National Parks. Koedoe 53: Art. #991, 10 pages.
  • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and human well-being: biodiversity synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington DC.
  • Vitousek PM (1992) Global environmental change: an introduction. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 23:1-14.