Foundations remain key to systematic biodiversity planning

by | Jul 15, 2016 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

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Written by SANBI.

There has been a remarkable growth in the manner in which systematic biodiversity planning is conducted in South Africa since its introduction in the late 90s. Key to the growth was the inception of the National Biodiversity Planning Forum in 2004. The main purpose of this Forum is to provide an opportunity for individuals, agencies and departments involved in spatial biodiversity planning to share and synthesise valuable lessons from systematic biodiversity planning projects across South Africa. For some time now, South Africa has been using biodiversity planning to guide and support strategic interventions and improve environmental decision-making. The continued reliance on this planning makes networks like this Forum necessary in order to encourage new thinking and innovation and improve decision-making.

Each year, the Forum identifies new themes but strives to maintain its identity, intentions and purpose while adapting to the dynamic demands and challenges faced by the country. The Forum has further proved to be a useful platform of learning and engagement, bringing improvements to the co-ordination, development and usage of spatial biodiversity products between and amongst practitioners, planners and institutions. The 2016 Forum was held under the theme “Foundations for Biodiversity Assessments” which focused on the foundational information on which biodiversity assessments and plans are based, including data limitations and potential solutions, research needs and novel approaches.

The 2016 Forum opened with Dr Emma Archer van Garderen giving a keynote address focussing on the First Order Draft of the Africa Assessment submitted to the secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. This report assesses the state of biodiversity and ecosystems services in order to provide policy relevant information for decision-making. Key findings of the report include a consideration of governance structures and the need for increased investment for the management of biodiversity and its associated ecosystems. Prof. Timm Hoffman then took delegates down memory lane with his keynote address focussed on the use of photographs to monitor environmental change over time and the effect of key drivers. The photographs included images taken from South Africa and Namibia and the limitations of this approach and its usefulness for the assessment of biodiversity were discussed.

The Forum was then characterised by various sessions in plenary and parallel building onto the main theme. This together with the opportunity for informal discussion and networking encouraged the continued growth of this community of practice.

At the launch of Mapping Biodiversity Priorities, which was celebrated at the Forum, there was an opportunity to reflect back on the journey with Dr Mandy Lombard, one of the respected key founders of systematic biodiversity planning in South Africa. She reminded delegates of how “it all started” and spoke of the individuals who were involved. “One of the things we had when we started was brains, we used our brains, there were no guaranteed resources to back our thinking but with time our thinking attracted resources” said Dr Lombard. She urged young people to take advantage of opportunities they have today, “Young people, the thinking has been done, the foundation has been laid, and it is your opportunity to grow this field, take advantage of these opportunities presented to you.”

The event took place from the 7-10 of June 2016 at the Wilderness Hotel in the Western Cape. Over 190 delegates attended the event from conservation agencies, provincial environmental and conservation departments, conservation NGOs, universities and research institutes, and independent biodiversity planning consultants.

For more information please contact Dr Tammy Smith at



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