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Conservation Services

Biodiversity Monitoring System

Protected areas are under increasing threat from a range of external and internal pressures on biodiversity. With a primary mandate being the conservation of biodiversity, monitoring is an essential component of measuring the performance of protected areas. A framework for guiding the structure and development of a Biodiversity Monitoring System (BMS) for South African National Parks (SANParks) will soon be published as:

McGeoch, M.A., Dopolo, M., Novellie, P., Hendriks, H., Freitag, S., Ferreira, S., Grant, R., Kruger, J., Bezuidenhout, H., Randall, R.M., Vermeulen, W., Kraaij, T., Russell, I.A., Knight, M.H., Holness, S. & Oosthuizen, A. (in press). A strategic framework for biodiversity monitoring in SANParks. Koedoe.

The BMS consists of ten Biodiversity Monitoring Programmes (BMP), which are currently under development:

  1. Biodiversity Mechanisms Monitoring Programme
    SANParks have as key mandate the maintenance of biological diversity. Most conservation actions take place at site level with implementing decisions taken at park section and park level. Conservation actions focus on providing the opportunity for ecological processes to operate. If such processes are constrained, actions focus on restoring or mimicking these. Conservation actions thus focus on managing drivers that directly influence conservation objectives and specifically also those factors that modulate how drivers influence key objectives. Mechanisms underpinning a conservation concern are thus the key focus of most site-based biodiversity management actions. This programme will establish the mechanistic linkages between key conservation objectives for each park, how drivers work and what modulates the effect of drivers explicitly. Heuristic models are used to guide the identification and development of park-specific monitoring requirements across these linkages.
  2. Species of Special Concern Monitoring Programme
    Particular species may be of special concern because they are threatened or their conservation status is in decline. Such species include local endemics and otherwise rare and threatened species (IUCN 2009). Species may be of particular conservation concern for other reasons, including their functional significance, once common species experiencing rapid decline (Nielsen et al. 2009; Gaston 2010), or species occurring as disjunct populations in a specific area (see e.g. Geldenhuys 1992). Species loss from protected areas is a key measure of the performance of protected areas and of the effectiveness of conservation management more generally (Gaston et al. 2008).
  3. Freshwater and Estuarine Systems Monitoring Programme
    Freshwater and estuarine systems are under intense pressure from increasing extraction as well as contamination from urban, agricultural and industrial return flows (Driver et al. 2005; Revenga et al. 2005; deVilliers & Thiart 2007). Pressure on these systems is exacerbated by the climatic aridity of South Africa, along with climate change predictions that total annual precipitation in the region is likely to decrease (Schulze 2007).
  4. Alien and Invasive Species Monitoring Programme
    Alien invasive species (IAS) are recognized as one the three principle threats to biodiversity, and both the number, extent and impact of IAS are increasing (Hulme 2009; McGeoch et al. 2010). Monitoring introduction pathways, new introductions, the spread of alien species within parks, and the success of management intervention is crucial to the successful management of this threat to biodiversity (Foxcroft 2009; Foxcroft et al. 2009).
  5. Habitat Degradation and Rehabilitation Monitoring Programme
    This includes both the loss of habitat and decline in habitat quality as a consequence of, for example, inappropriate fire or herbivory regimes, alien species invasion, the loss of key biodiversity elements of ecosystem processes (Carey et al. 2000). In some instances it is possible to reverse the effects of habitat degradation via ecological restoration (e.g. recovery of wetlands from old agricultural land and post alien clearing rehabilitation). Monitoring the success of the latter is critical, particularly given protected area expansion in some cases into areas with a history of alternative land uses.
  6. Resource Use Monitoring Programme
    There is a historical relationship between protected areas, their resources and stakeholders, particularly against the South African backdrop of land ownership, social segregation and restricted access to resources (Fabricius 2004; Von Maltitz & Shackleton 2004). The purpose of sustainable resource use in national parks is to contribute to improved human well-being (Naughton-Treves et al. 2005). This includes encouraging people to manage their own resources better, and strengthening the links between human livelihoods, the value of conservation and sustainable resource use with special attention to those peoples historically disadvantaged or marginalized by the South African protected area management authorities or their activities (SANParks 2008). Resource use in terrestrial and marine environments differ significantly in terms of their drivers, impact and management. For example, recreational fishing is a key form of resource extraction in the marine environment (Lombard et al. 2004) with high economic value (Leipold & van Zyl 2008). Some forms of resource use also currently generate income for parks (timber and wildlife sales). However, this objective must be carefully balanced with the overarching biodiversity objective of parks. Unsustainable, inappropriate and uncontrolled use of national park resources can result in adverse impacts on biodiversity and undermine the ecosystem integrity of parks.
  7. Habitat Representation and Persistence Monitoring Programme
    Nationally, particular ecosystems may be of special concern because of their conservation status and poor level of protection within formal reserves (Driver et al. 2005). At a park level, the patterns and processes that support ecosystem functioning within the park are directly dependent on the persistence of biodiversity and processes in areas around the park (Hansen & DeFries 2007). Key issues include the fragmentation of habitat, integrity of linkages and corridors between reserves and along gradients required for climate change adaptation, and the potential impacts of external park developments and activities.
  8. Disease Monitoring Programme
    Disease is one of the natural complement of factors that affect plant and animal populations. However, human manipulation of plant and animal distributions, livestock and wildlife interfaces, and increasing individual stress as a consequence of declines in environmental quality all contribute to human-induced disease (Daszak et al. 2000; Bengis et al. 2003). The term “emerging infectious diseases” (EIDs) is now used to describe the global phenomenon of increasing incidence of previously unknown diseases, and changes in the distribution of known diseases (Daszak et al. 2000). EID’s are thought to be driven by a combination of socio-economic and environmental factors (including, for example drug resistance and rainfall), and many EID’s are zoonotic and originate in wildlife (Jones et al. 2008). Disease therefore poses a significant potential threat to both the security of protected areas, and the health of their biota.
  9. Climate and Climate Change Monitoring Programme
    Climate plays a pivotal role as the basis for understanding biodiversity pattern and ecosystem processes (and thus often provides critical baseline data for other programmes listed here) (Bas et al. 2008, Lepetz et al. 2009). Global climate change has significant implications for human well being and biodiversity conservation. In particular, questions are being asked about the role of protected areas in the face of climate change, the impacts on them and possible mitigation measures (Midgley et al. 2007; Schulze 2007).
  10. Organisational Reporting Monitoring Programme
    Various biodiversity monitoring activities are more appropriately reported for the whole national park system managed by SANParks than for individual parks. This is often because of reporting requirements arising from legislation, national conservation programmes or international conventions. Examples are (1) the contribution of the national park system towards national targets set for the conservation of threatened biomes or vegetation types, and (2) the role of the national park system in protecting species that are of concern to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as a result of international trade.