The goal of BIOTA Southern Africa is to gain knowledge for decision makers for a feasible and sustainable management of biodiversity, by taking natural as well as socio-economic conditions into account.
This interdisciplinary and applied research project concentrates on studies in Namibia and the western parts of South Africa. Since start of the pilot phase (2000), the investigation focuses on the change of biodiversity caused by different land use systems and intensities. Therefore, systematic comparative studies on land use alternatives at different thematic levels and spatial scales have been established.
During the pilot phase (2000-2003), research on abiotic conditions as well as basic information on the existing biodiversity and its properties, patterns and function has been carried out as a prerequisite for understanding the natural framework of organismic diversity. This included the assessment of pedo- and geodiversity, climate, large-scale landscape structure, biological soil crusts, diversity of vascular plants and of various animal groups and their functional network. The main focus of the second phase (2004-2006), was to understand the drivers and mechanisms of changes in biodiversity as a base for scientifically sound predictions and interventions.
With phase III (2007-2009), BIOTA Southern Africa aims at user-oriented products. Since the beginning in 2001, BIOTA AFRICA developed a wide range of products. A number of these are major contributions to the understanding of the change of biodiversity on the African continent. These newly developed insights are driving the program for the phase III, see Approach.
The mentioned goal invokes the necessity that scientific results gained at a limited number of research sites allow extrapolation to other sites. In this regard a good potential is seen to extrapolate results gained within one biome to other parts of the same biome, while an extrapolation beyond the biome boundaries is generally impossible.
The research activities are concentrated on the 35 standardized long-term monitoring sites, Biodiversity Observatories, along the BIOTA Southern Africa transect.
The project is structure in 39 workpackages, 28 funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), 11 funded by South African Department of Science and Technology (DS&T), following up the overarching lines of activity:
- Understanding the drivers of change
- Assessing the current state and monitoring the intensity and direction of change of biodiversity
- Assessing and monitoring with special regard to land use changes and their impact
- Understanding the process and mechanisms by which change is taking place and integrating the process elements within models which give predictive capacity
- Developing tools and schemes for interventions (restoration, conservation, sustainable management)
- Transformation, decision support, learning partnerships and capacity development
The achieved findings on natural biotic dynamics within ecosystems as well as on changes of the economic utilization patterns and related consequences for biodiversity and socio-economic productivity will be transformed into prognostic scenarios using modelling techniques. Based on this information, decision making tools for the land users, for the public, for politicians and for local policy makers as well as for international conventions will be generated.