Advances and challenges in the implementation of strategic adaptive management beyond the Kruger National Park – Making linkages between science and biodiversity management

Angela Gaylard, Sam Ferreira
Koedoe | Vol 53, No 2 | a1005 | DOI: | © 2011 Angela Gaylard, Sam Ferreira | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 May 2010 | Published: 10 May 2011

About the author(s)

Angela Gaylard, Savanna Research Unit, Conservation Services, South African National Parks, Garden Route Regional Office, Knysna, South Africa
Sam Ferreira, Savanna Research Unit, Conservation Services, South African National Parks, Skukuza, South Africa


South African National Parks (SANParks) makes use of strategic adaptive management (SAM) to achieve its primary mandate of biodiversity conservation. This involves an iterative adaptive planning, management and review cycle to ensure appropriate alignment of stakeholder values with conservation objectives, to address the uncertainty inherent in complex social– economic–ecological systems and to learn explicitly whilst doing so. Adaptive management is recognised as the most logical framework for continuous improvement in natural resource management; nevertheless, several challenges in its implementation remain. This paper outlined these challenges and the various modifications to SANParks’ adaptive planning and management process that have emerged during its development. We demonstrated how the establishment of a regular Science–Management Forum provides opportunities for social colearning amongst resource managers and scientists of a particular park, whilst providing other positive spin-offs that mature the SAM process across the organisation. We discussed the use of particular conceptual constructs that clarify the link between monitoring, management requirements and operational endpoints, providing the context within which Thresholds of Potential Concern (TPCs) should be set, prioritised and measured. The evolution of the TPC concept was also discussed in the context of its use by other organisations, whilst recognising its current limitations within SANParks. Finally, we discussed remaining implementation challenges and uncertainties, and suggested a way forward for SAM.

Conservation implications: This paper outlined practical methods of implementing SAM in conservation areas, beyond what has already been learnt within, and documented for, the Kruger National Park. It also highlighted several implementation challenges that prove useful to other conservation agencies planning to adopt this approach to managing complex ecosystems.


strategic adaptive management, South African National Parks, science-management forum, social learning, Thresholds of Potential Concern, implementation challenges, requisite simplicity


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