Image_1_A Multi-Scale, Participatory Approach to Developing a Protected Area Wetland Inventory in South Africa.pdf
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Given limited time, staffing and specialist expertise, management of wetlands within biodiversity-rich protected areas of developing countries is often held back by a lack of information on the extent and nature of wetland resources. Rapid, realistic and effective wetland ecosystem assessment methods are needed to develop a baseline for monitoring that detects trends and guides management. For our case study national park, lack of available in-house wetland expertise stimulated a novel team approach to harness wide-ranging complementary and, ultimately, indispensable expertise, spanning several branches of the national park agency: park management and rangers, scientific services, and a unit responsible for invasive alien plant control and landscape restoration. Within a year, the team developed a sufficiently comprehensive inventory which captured the variation of wetlands present in Mountain Zebra National Park, South Africa. A total of 267 features were mapped, while 62 were visited in the field and assessed through rapid verification. Careful collation of existing data and imagery informed a catchment approach, an emphasis on wetland-landscape connectivity, and strategic targeting of a sub-set of important and representative sites deserving of targeted field assessment. The remaining wetlands not visited in the field were subject to geographic information system image interpretation. Overall, this resulted in a comprehensive overview assessment of the entire Park at multiple scales. The participatory approach followed here promotes integration of the findings of the study into park planning, management and rehabilitation. The process provides a potential template for scaling and adapting to similar work in other parks and other areas that have limited funding and capacity.