Biodiversity Planning and Mainstreaming: Overview

The purpose of the Biodiversity Planning and Mainstreaming Division is to ensure that SANBI:

  • Responds appropriately to biodiversity related global and national priorities
  • Makes a systematic contribution to the development of national biodiversity priorities
  • Demonstrates through development and implementation of strategic programmes and projects, the value of conserving biodiversity as well as the relevance of biodiversity to the improvement of the quality of life of South African society.

The key focus of the work done in the division includes:

  • Identifying priority areas for biodiversity conservation through spatial biodiversity planning
  • Assessing and monitoring the status of biodiversity
  • Mainstreaming biodiversity in municipalities and land-use decision making
  • Establishing and implementing multi-partner bioregional and ecosystem programmes piloting innovative biodiversity management approaches.

These focus areas are addressed through the various programmes within the Division. With all of these programmes, collaboration with a wide range of partners is crucial, and SANBI is often uniquely placed to coordinate and facilitate the efforts of these diverse partners.

The division is arranged into three components, although the work in the Division is often cross-cutting. These components include:

  • Biodiversity Planning and Assessment
  • Mainstreaming and Landuse
  • Bioregional and Ecosystem Programmes.

Biodiversity Planning

The Biodiversity Planning Programme uses the principles of systematic biodiversity planning, also known as systematic conservation planning, to identify national and regional priority areas for biodiversity conservation. More information on systematic biodiversity planning projects in South Africa, visit the BGIS website.

The Biodiversity Planning Programme has been involved in the analysis and identification of the national list of threatened terrestrial ecosystems; identification of geographic focus areas for the National Protected Area Expansion Strategy; provided support to provinces developing provincial spatial biodiversity plans; and contributed to the development of the National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA) 2004 and the National Biodiveristy Assessment (NBA) 2012.

Biodiversity Planning Forum 

The Biodiversity Planning Forum is an annual Forum, established in 2004, providing an opportunity for individuals, agencies and departments involved in spatial biodiversity planning to share and synthesise valuable lessons from biodiversity planning projects across South Africa. The Forum is intended primarily for those involved in the technical aspects of biodiversity planning and the production of biodiversity planning products.

This includes people from conservation agencies, provincial environmental and conservation departments, conservation NGOs, universities and research institutes (national and international), and bioregional programmes, as well as independent biodiversity planning consultants. The core focus of the Forum is on systematic biodiversity planning, with a key theme being ‘planning for implementation’ or planning that lays the basis for implementation of the planning outputs.

Each year the Forum is held in a different province and co-hosted by SANBI and the relevant provincial conservation authority and/or agency.

2008 Biodiversity Planning Forum 

The 5th annual Biodiversity Planning Forum was held in the Eastern Cape and co-hosted with the Eastern Cape Parks and the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs. The 2008 Forum focused on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of systematic biodiversity planning and showcased national, regional, provincial and local level biodiversity planning products produced over the previous year.

Discussion sessions were held on the listing of threatened ecosystems, wetland planning and classification, the development of land-use guidelines to accompany critical biodiversity area maps and the identification of priority sites in urban areas. Demonstration sessions were held with experts on some of the biodiversity planning software available.

2009 Biodiversity Planning Forum 

The 6th annual Biodiversity Planning Forum, organised by SANBI, was held in KwaZulu-Natal and co-hosted with Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife. The 2009 Forum saw a record number of participants attending including representatives from national government, provincial environmental departments and conservation agencies, NGO’s, research institutes and universities, SANParks and SANBI.

The Forum included presentation sessions and discussions on a range of topics including marine and estuarine biodiversity planning, freshwater biodiversity planning, planning for ecosystem services and provincial biodiversity planning. Prior to the 2009 Biodiversity Planning Forum SANBI held a two-day training session on systematic biodiversity planning attended by over 80 participants.

Mainstreaming and Landuse

The programmes associated with this component of the Division’s work focus on mainstreaming biodiversity through ensuring that biodiversity priorities are incorporated in the plans, programmes and policies of other sectors.

SANBI has initiated a programme of work to support mainstreaming biodiversity into land-use planning and environmental assessment. This includes a strong focus on:

  • ensuring that biodiversity information is appropriately used to support, streamline and strengthen EIAs and land-use decision-making
  • supporting municipal-level pilot projects on mainstreaming and capacity building.

This will be achieved through supporting policy and legislative development in the planning and environmental assessment fields; engaging with key stakeholders to secure strategic support and collaboration for biodiversity in land-use planning and environmental assessment; developing and promoting materials and other tools to support integration of biodiversity in environmental assessment and land-use planning; providing strategic guidance and supervision for pilot municipal capacity building projects undertaken by SANBI and partner organisations; and providing strategic guidance and supervision for SANBI projects to mainstream biodiversity into land-use planning and environmental assessment.

SANBI, in partnership with the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), has initiated the National Municipal Biodiversity Programme. The programme aims to ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem services are effectively managed and contribute to sustainable economic growth and human well-being in municipalities across South Africa.

Municipalities have an increasingly important role to play as both users and managers of natural resources but they often do not have the resources to deal with many of these issues. The purpose of the programme is to effectively build the developmental, integrative and administrative capacities of municipalities for wise and informed management of biodiversity.

SANBI is supporting the development of bioregional plans, provided for in terms of the Biodiversity Act. At the request of DEA, SANBI developed the Guideline Regarding the Determination of Bioregions and the Preparation and Publishing of Bioregional Plans which was gazetted on 2 March 2009.

This Guideline provides guidance on the content and process for publishing a bioregional plan. The purpose of a bioregional plan is to guide land-use planning and decision-making by all sectors whose policies and decisions impact biodiversity.

SANBI has initiated a project, with funding from DEA, to develop municipal biodiversity summaries for all municipalities in the country. These summaries will provide a map of biodiversity features with accompanying statistics for municipalities to use in their reporting and, where no other finer-scale biodiversity data is available, to guide decision-making. This project will provide a tool indicating where threatened ecosystems occur in the landscape.

SANBI recently initiated the Land Reform and Biodiversity Stewardship Initiative in partnership with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The aim of this project is to demonstrate the successful delivery of both socio-economic and conservation benefits at a project level and establish a network of learning regarding the land reform/communal lands and biodiversity stewardship.

Bioregional and ecosystem programmes

SANBI coordinates several bioregional and ecosystem programmes including the:

These programmes focus on priority actions for biodiversity in South Africa’s most threatened biomes and ecosystems, identified through science and stakeholder consultation. They are based on multi-sectoral partnerships of government and civil society aimed at conserving biodiversity and making links with socio-economic development, using pilot projects and demonstration models, testing and pioneering innovative approaches.

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