The development and consequent gazetting of the Terrestrial Plant Species and Terrestrial Animal Species protocols as well as a set of guidelines is the culmination of three years of work done by SANBI, in collaboration with Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), BirdLife SA and various species specialists through the Biodiversity and Land Use Project.

The protocols were developed in consultation with the respective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Competent Authorities that participate in DEFF’s Working Group 5, SANBI’s Biodiversity Planning Forum and Provincial and Metro Biodiversity Working Group Meeting.

The Terrestrial Plant Species and Terrestrial Animal Species protocols were gazetted for implementation purposes in October 2020, following the gazetting of the Terrestrial and Aquatic Biodiversity Protocols earlier this year. The Plant and Animal Species Protocols aim to provide the minimum information requirements for species specialist studies, thereby standardising species-level aspects of EIAs and the reporting of potential impacts from proposed developments on species of conservation concern (SCC).

The protocols describe the type of assessments that should occur for each sensitivity level represented in DEFF’s online Environmental Impact Assessment screening tool for a particular theme.

The need for the development of the protocols arose due to the challenges experienced by competent authorities when it comes to making decisions on EIA applications, as there were no standardized approach or requirements for specialist studies in EIAs in South Africa.

The use of various sets of minimum information requirements when conducting specialist assessment and documentation not containing adequate information are some of the aspects that made it challenging for competent authorities to be consistent in their review, comment and decision making of EIA applications.

In addition, the lack of readily available spatial information on the contemporary location of (SCC) to support the decision-making process also contributed to the challenges experienced by competent authorities when dealing with EIA applications.

In addition, a Species Environmental Assessment Guideline, a first for South Africa, was developed and finalised in October 2020. The guideline provides background and context to the requirements set by the respective species protocols, as well as guidance on sampling and data collection methodologies for the different taxonomic groups represented therein, and represents the most efficient and effective manner in which the Terrestrial Animal and Plant Species Protocols can be complied with.

This guideline is intended for specialist studies undertaken for activities that have triggered a listed and specified activity in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (No. 107 of 1998) (NEMA), as identified by the EIA Regulations, 2014 (as amended) and Listing Notices 1-3.

The screening tool has all the relevant protocols that the applicant needs to comply with and which supports the pre-screening for environmental sensitivities in the landscape before an application for Environmental Assessment is lodged. It is mandatory to append the screening report provided by the screening tool to documentation when submitting an EIA application.

The development and consequent gazetting of the two sets of biodiversity related protocols for implementation, as well as the development of a guideline as a tool to supplement the protocols was supported by a participatory co-development approach allowing relevant stakeholders to participate in and comment on the documents.

Although this has resulted in a very lengthy process, the process allowed for all parties to be part of the co-creation and consequently co-owning of these policy products.

For more information on this area of work please contact Abigail Bahindwa or Mthobisi Nzimande

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