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National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy

The National Protected Area Expansion Strategy, 2008 was developed to “achieve cost-effective protected area expansion for ecological sustainability and increased resilience to climate change.” It recognises that South Africa’s current protected area network falls short of sustaining biodiversity and ecological processes. It therefore sets protected area targets, which “indicate how much of each ecosystem should be included in the protected areas, and help to focus protected area expansion on the least protected ecosystems.” These targets do not focus on the number of hectares that should be included in the protected area network but rather on ecosystem-specific biodiversity thresholds, which then inform the number of hectares that would require protection.

The manner in which the Expansion Strategy identifies protected area targets is by considering the importance and urgency of protecting the area in question. An area will be deemed to be important if it contributes to:

  • Meeting biodiversity thresholds for terrestrial or freshwater ecosystems;
  • Maintaining ecological processes; or
  • Climate change resilience.

The urgency factor is determined by whether spatial options for meeting protected area targets still exist – where the spatial options still exist, then the target for a particular vegetation type can still be met and thus the urgency for expanding protection into this area is low; whereas where the spatial options are so few that the protected area target cannot be met, then the urgency for expanding protection into this area is high.