Applying adaptive management in resource use in South African National Parks: A case study approach

Kelly Scheepers, Louise Swemmer, Wessel J. Vermeulen
Koedoe | Vol 53, No 2 | a999 | DOI: | © 2011 Kelly Scheepers, Louise Swemmer, Wessel J. Vermeulen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 April 2010 | Published: 10 May 2011

About the author(s)

Kelly Scheepers, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Winnellie, Australia
Louise Swemmer, Savanna and Arid Parks, South African National Parks, South Africa
Wessel J. Vermeulen, Scientific Services (Knysna), South African National Parks, South Africa


South African National Parks (SANParks) has a history of formal and informal natural resource use that is characterised by polarised views on national conservation interests and benefits to communities. Current efforts aim to determine the sustainability of existing resource use in parks and to formalise these activities through the development of resource use protocols. The resource use policy of SANParks outlines principles for sustainable resource use, including greater involvement of local communities in management of protected areas and an adaptive management approach to determining sustainable use levels. This paper examines three case studies on plant use in national parks with regard to the development of criteria and indicators for monitoring resource use, and the role of thresholds of potential concern in measuring effectiveness of managing for sustainable use levels. Opportunities and challenges for resource use management are identified. Findings show that platforms for discussion and knowledge sharing, including research committees and community associations, are critical to building relationships, trust and a shared vision of sustainable resource use between stakeholders. However, additional capacity building is needed to enable local community structures to manage internal social conflicts and jealousy, and to participate fully in monitoring efforts. Long-term monitoring is essential for developing flexible harvest prescriptions for plant use, but this is a time-consuming and resource-intensive exercise. Flexible management strategies are difficult to implement and sometimes command-and-control measures are necessary to protect rare or endangered species. A holistic approach that considers resource use in national parks as a complement to broader community development initiatives offers a way forward.

Conservation implications: There is no blueprint for the development of sustainable resource use systems and resource use is often addressed according to multiple approaches in national parks. However, the SANParks resource use policy provides a necessary set of guiding principles for resource use management across the national park system that allows for monitoring progress.


consumptive use, harvesting protocols, Seven-week fern, Pepper-bark tree, sour figs


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