Essay

From numbers to ecosystems and biodiversity: A mechanistic approach to monitoring

Sam Ferreira, Andrew Deacon, Hendrik Sithole, Hugo Bezuidenhout, Mahlomola Daemane, Marna Herbst
Koedoe | Vol 53, No 2 | a998 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v53i2.998 | © 2011 Sam Ferreira, Andrew Deacon, Hendrik Sithole, Hugo Bezuidenhout, Mahlomola Daemane, Marna Herbst | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2010 | Published: 05 May 2011

About the author(s)

Sam Ferreira, Savanna Research Unit, South African National Parks, Skukuza, South Africa
Andrew Deacon, Savanna Research Unit, South African National Parks, Skukuza, South Africa
Hendrik Sithole, Savanna Research Unit, South African National Parks, Skukuza, South Africa
Hugo Bezuidenhout, Arid Research Unit, South African National Parks, Kimberley, South Africa, South Africa
Mahlomola Daemane, Arid Research Unit, South African National Parks, Kimberley, South Africa, South Africa
Marna Herbst, Arid Research Unit, South African National Parks, Kimberley, South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Diverse political, cultural and biological needs epitomise the contrasting demands impacting on the mandate of the South African National Parks (SANParks) to maintain biological diversity. Systems-based approaches and strategic adaptive management (learn by doing) enable SANParks to accommodate these demands. However, such a management strategy creates new information needs, which require an appropriate analytical approach. We use conceptual links between objectives, indicators, mechanisms and modulators to identify key concerns in the context of and related to management objectives. Although our suggested monitoring designs are based mostly on defined or predicted underlying mechanisms of a concern, SANParks requires inventory monitoring to evaluate its key mandate. We therefore propose a predictive inventory approach based on species assemblages related to habitat preferences. Inventories alone may not always adequately serve unpacking of mechanisms: in some cases population size needs to be estimated to meet the information needs of management strategies, but actual population sizes may indirectly affect how the species impact on other values. In addition, ecosystem objectives require multivariate assessments of key communities, which can be used in trend analysis. SANParks therefore needs to know how to detect and define trends efficiently, which, in turn, requires precision of measures of variables.

Conservation implications: Current research needs with regard to monitoring should focus on defining designs to yield optimal precision whilst taking methodology, survey trade-offs and analytical approaches into account. Use of these directives and research will guide monitoring during evaluation of SANParks objectives at various scales.


Keywords

species monitoring, communities, thresholds of potential concern, ecological mechanisms, trends, herbivory

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