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Guidance on low-cost biodiversity mapping launched

23 June 2016

On Tuesday 7th June 2016 a new guidance document, Mapping Biodiversity Priorities, was launched at the 13th National Biodiversity Planning Forum (BPF13) in Wilderness, South Africa, by the CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Dr Tanya Abrahamse, and John Tayleur of UNEP-WCMC.

Mapping Biodiversity Priorities sets out a practical, science-based approach to spatial biodiversity assessment and prioritisation, and is intended to be applied at the national level in any country. It is aimed at a wide audience and in particular those involved in revising or implementing National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs).

This guidance will be especially useful for countries that are biodiversity rich yet resource constrained, where difficult choices have to be made about how and where to focus conservation action. It shows how even the most data-poor countries can use available global data to generate useful results for conservation and land use planning.

Mapping Biodiversity Priorities is the result of a collaborative effort between SANBI and UNEP-WCMC. The guidance seeks to distil and share the lessons learned from South Africa’s approach to spatial biodiversity assessment and planning. Some 15 experts in biodiversity planning and assessment, including members of the South African National Biodiversity Assessment team, were brought together at a writing workshop to identify and capture the essential components for conducting spatial biodiversity assessment and prioritisation.

Dr Hilary Allison, Head of Ecosystem Assessment at UNEP-WCMC said: “Working with SANBI to produce this guidance has been a great partnership. The publication shows how a few basic datasets can be combined to produce useful headline indicators of the state of biodiversity as well as map products that help to focus and prioritise conservation action across the landscape and seascape. These can be used to inform a wide range of policy applications.”

SANBI’s CEO, Dr Abrahamse, speaking at the launch of Mapping Biodiversity Priorities, emphasised that South Africa’s annual Biodiversity Planning Forum represents a dynamic community of practice whose impact is felt in the wide application of spatial biodiversity planning products in South Africa, across diverse sectors such as land-use planning, mining authorisations, and strategic water resource planning. She explained that the Forum has also played a vital role in building the capacity of young scientists and practitioners, in some cases launching their careers in biodiversity assessment and planning. The publication Mapping Biodiversity Priorities provides an opportunity to share some of this experience with other countries.