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Monitoring Programmes

The Rondevlei Office of Garden Route Scientific Services, in partnerships with park staff, and in accordance with environmental legislation and commitments relevant to Park Management plans, are developing procedures for monitoring biodiversity indicators. The available plans for Wilderness and Tsitsikamma Section of Garden Route National Park detail proposed environmental monitoring programs.

Many natural ecosystems are inherently variable both across the landscape and over time. The constantly changing nature of natural ecosystems (sometimes described as flux) is one of the major dictates of biotic diversity, which is most readily apparent as the distribution and abundance of plants and animals. The maintenance of these natural changes in ecosystems is embodied in the biodiversity conservation objectives of national parks. However, changes that humankind has imposed on ecosystems can unfortunately alter the nature and extent of natural variability and hence biotic diversity, which could lead to some conservation objectives not being achieved.

Monitoring is a process whereby attributes of selected indicators are described and evaluated to test the achievement of objectives. Obviously it would be impossible to monitor change in all components of the natural environment in parks, therefore indicators are selected (e.g. water quality, bird numbers, plant biomass, etc.) as surrogates for broad ecosystem changes.

Thresholds of Potential Concern (TPCs) form a component of the monitoring approach and are predefined and collectively agreed upon limits of how much change in the natural environment we are prepared to accept. These limits should thus ideally encompass the amount of variability we would expect in a naturally functioning ecosystem, yet exclude extremes of change that humankind may be artificially imposing on the ecosystem and which may be detrimental for one or more ecosystem components. When a TPC is exceeded this would suggest that a park objective may not be achieved. In this circumstance a management phase would be entered into in which the relevant monitoring and park management actions are evaluated, and where appropriate they are adapted to address the situation.

Internal comments on these draft plans are encouraged. Readers who wish to make comments are requested to contact Ian Russell: ian.russell@sanparks.org

The monitoring documents for Wilderness and Tsitsikamma will be updated and combined to form a consolidated Garden Route document which will incorporate the State Forest areas now under SANParks management, as well as the Knysna Estuary and the terrestrial areas of the Park.