Scientific Services exists to act as a hub of formal learning in the biophysical sciences, and of rigorous scholarly yet practical thinking, within SANParks.
To manage this body of knowledge SANParks needs, not only do they need to cultivate their own personal skills in science, but even more productively, they have to act as intermediaries with the outside world of science. This makes it possible for SANParks to leverage knowledge, the key cutting-edge commodity and advantage in today's world.
Our scientists have to then negoiate partnership arrangements with these institutes, collaborate when necessary during implementation, and above all harvest the results of use to us and re-integrate these into policy and management recommendations. Our scientists also have many other subsidiary functions such as public dissemination of these results. Reasearch teams in Kruger; Kimberley, Rondevlei and the Cape Research Centre are responsible for co-ordinating environmental monitoring programs in order to assess our progress with our core function, biodiversity conservation.
Here is a diagramatic representation of compositional, structural, and functional biodiversity, shown as interconnected spheres, each encompassing multiple levels of organization. Noss, RF. 1990. Indicators for Monitoring Biodiversity: A Hierarchical Approach. Conservation Biology. Vol 4; Issue 4; Page 355-364.
Our conservation biologists are responsible for the following:
- Identifying key research themes necessary for national parks to achieve their conservation objectives.
- Conducting research on key themes.
- Coordinating research projects conducted by external scientific institutions in national parks.
- Integrating best available biodiversity data into park management through interactions with external researchers and research institutions.
- Maintaining inventories of biodiversity in national parks, including species checklists for vertebrates and higher plants, and the mapping of landscapes, geology, soil and vegetation.
- Identifying and averting threats to biodiversity in national parks, including
- overabundance of certain wildlife populations,
- invasive alien plant and animal species,
- human development,
- excessive resource exploitation,
- climate change or other factors.
- Ensuring that development within parks takes place in a manner that does not compromise biodiversity conservation.
- Conservation plans for rare and threatened species.
- Provide scientific inputs on the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes.
- Providing scientific inputs on biodiversity aspects of park management plans and activities.
- Identifying biodiversity conservation priorities for park expansion.
- Building capacity in conservation biology and related sciences, particularly in persons from historically disadvantaged population groups.
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- There is ample evidence that prehistoric man, Homo erectus, roamed the area between 500 000 and 100 000 years ago.