project overview

National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas

The National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (NFEPA) project was a partnership and collaborative process led by the CSIR with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Department of Water Affairs (DWA), the Water Research Commission (WRC), WWF South Africa, as well as expertise from South African National Parks (SANParks), the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and DEAT. The project was originally conceived in 2006 and the project proposal was submitted to the WRC in July 2007. An inception meeting took place in August 2008 to introduce the aims of the project to relevant stakeholders from the freshwater science, governance and management sectors. The NFEPA project aimed to identify a national network of freshwater conservation areas and to explore institutional mechanisms for their implementation.

Freshwater ecosystems provide a valuable natural resource, with economic, aesthetic, spiritual, cultural and recreational value. Yet the integrity of freshwater ecosystems in South Africa is declining at an alarming rate largely as a consequence of a variety of challenges that are practical (managing vast areas of land to maintain connectivity between freshwater ecosystems), socio-economic (competition between stakeholders for utilisation) and institutional (building appropriate governance and co-management mechanisms).

The first National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA) in 2004 provided a national assessment of the status of terrestrial, river, marine and estuarine ecosystems and indentified broad priority areas for biodiversity conservation for terrestrial ecosystems. Freshwater ecosystems were lacking as some critical datasets was unavailable. However, the NSBA highlighted the dire state of river ecosystems in South Africa, which were far worse than the state of terrestrial ecosystems.

In 2006, a process was initiated to develop cross-sector policy objectives for conserving South Africa’s inland water biodiversity, which led to the definition of a national goal for freshwater conservation policy in South Africa: “to conserve a sample of the full diversity of species and the inland water ecosystems in which they occur, as well as the processes which generate and maintain diversity”. Five policy objectives, each with a set of recommendations, were identified in order to achieve this goal:

  • Set and entrench quantitative targets
  • Plan for the representation of inland water biodiversity
  • Maintain the processes which encourage the evolution and persistence of ecosystems
  • Establish a network of inland water conservation areas and
  • Enable effective implementation

NFEPA takes forward the implementation of the Cross-Sector Policy Objectives for Inland Water Conservation. It also builds on the river component of the National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA) 2004, and will feed directly into the NBA (National Biodiversity Assessment) 2010.

NFEPA project outputs

  • Atlas and NFEPA DVD: packages map products and data. The map products include:

On a Water Management Area (WMA) level:

  • FEPA maps (Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas)

On a National level:

  • Density of FEPAs by WMA
  • Density of FEPAs by sub-WMA
  • Free-flowing rivers
  • Fish sanctuary areas
  • Water supply areas
  • Implementation manual, which will include how to use FEPA maps in existing planning and decision-making processes, along with freshwater ecosystem management guidelines.
  • Technical report: documents science and stakeholder engagement process.
  • GIS data and associated metadata: in shapefile format.