Strategic adaptive management and the efficiency of invasive alien plant management in South African national parks
Author(s)Loftus, Wynand Johan
Contributor(s)Fabricius, Christo Prof.
KeywordsBiodiversity -- South Africa -- Management
Alien plants -- South Africa
Invasive plants -- South Africa
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AbstractIt is well known that invasive alien plants (IAPs) pose a significant threat to natural biodiversity and human well-being. Through various pressures exerted on natural ecosystems, IAPs decrease and alter natural processes that provide important ecosystems services and livelihoods to human communities. These plants also displace and out-compete natural plant communities in the areas in which they invade. Management of IAPs is a complex issue with social, environmental and financial challenges. The long-term sustainable management of IAPs requires a management approach that monitors and measures the outcomes of current management practices, and considers the lessons learnt in future decision making. Adaptive management is such an approach and is characterised by monitoring, assessment, reflection and adaptation. In this dissertation I explore IAP management within the South African National Parks (SANParks) organisation. I focus on the quality of the available IAP clearing data for monitoring and environmental decision-making and explore how strategic adaptive management (SAM) is being applied to IAP management. Strategic adaptive management is a form of adaptive management that SANParks adopted to deal with the inherent unpredictability of the social ecological systems they manage, and is primarily a learning-by-doing approach. In chapter one I describe the various impacts that IAPs have on natural environments. I also discuss management of IAPs, the national Working for Water (WfW) programme and how SANParks control IAPs in partnership with WfW. Clearing of IAPs within the borders of SANParks is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs‘ (DEA) Natural Resource Management programmes and carried out through the Working for Water programme, under SANParks‘ Biodiversity Social Projects programme and is done on a contract basis. Contract data are stored in the Working for Water Information Management System (WIMS) database. Although IAP clearing is well established, the efficiency of overall clearing operations within the parks, and quality and reliability of the data available in the WIMS, needs to be examined. In Chapter two, I (i) assess the status of IAP clearing and the direct clearing costs in each of the five national parks (costs are inflated to 2012 equivalents using the consumer price index), (ii) assess the accuracy of workload estimations for WfW IAP clearing, and (iii) discuss the utility of WIMS as a system to collate and store accurate data for monitoring purposes, focusing on the integrity and reliability of the data, the accuracy of density estimations and whether it can inform sound decision making. The planning of future clearing contracts lacks efficiency due to inaccuracies and unreliability of input data, specifically estimates of invasive alien plant density. The accuracy of density estimation and cost of clearing varies greatly between parks and does not appear to reflect the reality on the ground. In Chapter 3, through an interview process with IAP managers, I 1) unpack the steps in the SAM ‗cycle‘ and investigate the effectiveness of implementation of each step according to respondents; 2) assess the barriers that are currently keeping managers from implementing effective IAP management; 3) discuss whether learning and adaptation is taking place, and 4) discuss how the SAM process can be modified to promote its effectiveness. Working for Water managers in SANParks believe there is a disconnect between the objectives of SANParks and that of WfW and that there is a need for a comprehensive joint vision. Managers believe too much emphasis is placed on the social upliftment aspect of the WfW programme at the cost of sound scientific data collection and monitoring. Respondents also expressed concern over the high administrative demands of the programme and the lack of time to think and reflect as a result of this. It appears that SAM is currently not being effectively applied to IAP management and that there is a need to revise the strategy. Despite raising concern over the effectiveness of SAM for IAP management, the respondents agreed that the programme is moving in the right direction and are aware of the shortcomings. My research identified eight shortcomings in current IAP management: 1) over-emphasis on person-days as an index of job creation; 2) administrative burdens; 3) inaccurate density estimations; 4) ineffective and incomplete monitoring; 5) inaccuracy of advance contract workload estimations; 6) lack of time for learning and reflection; 7) inadequate communication; and 8) inflexibility. These challenges can be seen as opportunities and if addressed, will improve IAP management effectiveness. I recommend that SANParks invest in the education of managers in SAM to promote responsiveness, learning and adaptation. Furthermore, I recommend that the SECI (Socialisation, Externalisation, Combination, Internalisation) model be used as inspiration for creating a learning culture within the current SAM model. Emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of reflection and learning, and the management structure needs to provide ample time for these activities. These challenges should be seen as opportunities for innovation, to improve the effectiveness of IAP management in SANParks and in DEA‘s Natural Resource Management programmes in general.