Karoo BioGaps Project
Currently the Karoo is poorly surveyed for biodiversity and there are large gaps in our understanding of which species occur in which parts of the Karoo. This hampers efforts to determine priority habitats that may be sensitive to future proposed changes in landuse.
The Karoo is seen as an important development area for South Africa, and there needs to be responsible decision-making around developments such as shale gas exploration, farming, mining, renewable energy infrasctucture and the Square Kilometre Array.
SANBI has led a consortium of institutions to a successful funding grant from the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP), a joint initiative of the Department of Science of Technology (DST), the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), so that we can advance our scientific understanding of valuable Karoo ecosystems and contribte to informed decision-making.
Under the BioGaps Project, the current paucity of biodiversity data will be addressed through:
1) integrating and upgrading existing data for target taxa located in museums and herbaria around South Africa, and
2) conducting detailed surveys for 11 representative taxonomic groups (plants, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles, as well as six invertebrate groups: bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, scorpions, butterflies and spiders) in areas targeted for shale gas exploration.
These objectives will be achieved through a collaborative network led by SANBI, including:
- The Agricultural Research Council's Plant Protection Research Institute (ARC PPRI) – both fieldwork and collections relating to several invertebrate taxa.
- The American Museum of Natural History – for species identification and overseeing digitisation of 8000 scorpion specimens.
- The Lepidopterists' Society of Southern Africa ('LepSoc') – fieldwork and identifications of species for butterflies.
- The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) – fieldwork and monitoring of permanent plots.
- The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) – fieldwork and threat assessments for fish species.
- Collections institutions that will be involved in digitisation and surveys: Albany Museum, Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld, Bews Herbarium (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Bolus Herbarium (University of Cape Town), Compton Herbarium (SANBI), Ditsong Museum, Iziko Museum, and National Museum.
- Universities that will be involved in surveys and co-supervising postgraduate research: KwaZulu-Natal, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, North West and Pretoria.
- DNA barcoding work will be a joint effort between SANBI, the National Zoological Gardens and the University of Johannesburg.
- Species threat assessment work will be supported by the NGOs the Botanical Society of South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
End-users supporting government decision-making are the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Environmental Management Services, DEA’s Strategic Development Support Directorate, SANBI’s Policy Advice section, provincial environmental authorities (Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape) and local municipalities.
By the end of the project approximately 200 000 new primary occurrence records will inform species occupancy and habitat richness models which, along with approximately 300 Red List assessments of species of conservation concern, will be served to decision makers via the SANBI’s Land Use Decision Support (LUDS) tool.
The project will also use novel approaches in engaging and developing citizen scientists - keep an eye on our Karoo BioGaps Project Blog here and also feel free to post observations of Karoo species on iSpot using the Karoo BioGaps Project.
For more information about the project, please contact project manager Dr Theresa Sethusa.