A strategic framework for biodiversity monitoring in South African National Parks
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. Here we present a framework for guiding the structure and development of a Biodiversity Monitoring System (BMS) for South African National Parks (SANParks). Monitoring activities in the organisation are currently unevenly distributed across parks, taxa and key concerns: they do not address the full array of biodiversity objectives, and have largely evolved in the absence of a coherent, overarching framework. The requirement for biodiversity monitoring in national parks is clearly specified in national legislation and international policy, as well as by SANParks’ own adaptive management philosophy. Several approaches available for categorising the multitude of monitoring requirements were considered in the development of the BMS, and 10 Biodiversity Monitoring Programmes (BMPs) were selected that provide broad coverage of higher-level biodiversity objectives of parks. A set of principles was adopted to guide the development of BMPs (currently underway), and data management, resource and capacity needs will be considered during their development. It is envisaged that the BMS will provide strategic direction for future investment in this core component of biodiversity conservation and management in SANParks. Conservation implications: Monitoring biodiversity in protected areas is essential to assessing their performance. Here we provide a coordinated framework for biodiversity monitoring in South African National Parks. The proposed biodiversity monitoring system addresses the broad range of park management plan derived biodiversity objectives.