Bioregional conservation planning and implementation has been initiated in South Africa through programmes like the Cape Action Plan for the Environment (C.A.P.E.), the Subtropical Thicket Ecosystem Planning (STEP) and the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP) initiatives. SANBI houses the implementation unit of the C.A.P.E. programme and is involved in both the STEP and SKEP programmes. These programmes involve a systematic conservation planning phase and implementation of these plans through projects with participating stakeholders.
SANBI hosts bimonthly information and lesson sharing sessions for the SKEP, STEP and C.A.P.E. bioregional programmes. A bioregional newsletter is being developed and the programmes are collaborating on the development of a monitoring and evaluation system for bioregional initiatives.
A new multi-stakeholder bioregional initiative has recently been put into action in the form of the National Grassland Biodiversity Initiative. The aim of this initiative is to promote the conservation of the grassland biome in South Africa. In the Eastern Cape, a Bioregional Programmes Co-ordination Unit has been established to guide the implementation of bioregional programmes in the Eastern Cape region.
National Grassland Biodiversity Initiative
The grassland biome is the most threatened biome in South Africa. A Grassland Forum was initiated in 2002, which brought together various role-players from across provincial boundaries. This Forum has now requested that SANBI lead a National Grassland Biodiversity Initiative and develop appropriate programmes within the grassland biome. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that ecological services provided by the grasslands are sustained now and into the future, contributing to economic development and poverty alleviation. Grasslands are important for economic development but this development also threatens the grasslands. As such the initiative will follow a strategic approach of mainstreaming biodiversity in production landscapes and sectors including agriculture, forestry and urban sectors.
A Bioregional Programmes Co-ordination Unit has been established in Port Elizabeth due to a request from stakeholders in the Eastern Cape. C.A.P.E., STEP and SKEP intersect in the region and there are a number of associated fine-scale projects. This requires a co-ordinated response from authorities and land-managers. The region has a lower capacity compared to some of the other centres. However, it is biologically rich, and includes 7 biomes, and therefore the co-ordination within the programmes is of particular importance. The inaugural implementation initiative of STEP, the Great Fish River Biodiversity Initiative (FRBI), funded by the Department of Economic Affairs, Environment and Tourism, is currently underway.
The roles and responsibilities of the Bioregional Programmes Co-ordination Unit include:
The Unit, together with the WESSA Biodiversity Conservation Unit (WESSA BCU) and the Mazda Wildlife Fund, has launched the Capacity Building Project for Eastern Cape Land Use Planners and Decision-makers. This is a two-year initiative that commenced in September 2004. The aim is to empower land use planners and decision-makers to make wise and informed decisions about land use and sustainable development.
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