Research | Biodiversity and conservation

Environment sector research, development and evidence framework
Climate change, green economy and sustainable development
Biodiversity and conservation
Forestry research
Oceans and coastal research
Compliance and law enforcement




Review of the scientific basis for breaching the mouth of lake st lucia estuary, 2022

The Lake St Lucia, an estuarine lake, is situated within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The lake has a long history of anthropogenic intervention including canalisation of some feeder rivers, artificial breaching and maintenance of an opened mouth, water abstraction, dredging, and changes in protection status and management authorities.

» download report [PDF - 13.9 mb]



The high-level panel of experts for the review of policies, legislation and practices on matters of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling, 2020

This report is, by and large, a consensus report of the High-Level Panel of Experts for the Review of Policies, Legislation and Practices on Matters of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros Management, Breeding, Hunting, Trade and Handling (‘the HLP’) – as reflected in the set of goals and recommendations framed within Chapter Nine. There are however some areas in relation to the HLP’s identified goals and recommendations where it was not possible to reach full consensus. In such cases, the report reflects these as majority and minority views as provided for in the HLP’s Charter.

» download report [PDF - 9.5 mb]



South Africa works towards eradicating introduced house mice from sub-Antarctic Marion Island: the largest island yet attempted for mice, 2019

House mice (Mus musculus) were introduced to South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island, the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands, by sealers in the early 19th century. Over the last two centuries they have greatly reduced the abundance of native invertebrates. Domestic cats (Felis catus) taken to the island in 1948 to control mice at the South African weather station soon turned feral, killing large numbers of breeding seabirds. This document provides an overview of the adverse impacts of mice on Marion Island’s biota and ecosystem and discuss the mouse eradication attempt planned for the austral winter of 2020.

» download report [PDF - 1,839 kb]



National Biodiversity Research Development and Evidence Startegy 2015 - 2025

This document sets out the strategy for biodiversity research and evidence between 2015 and 2025. It broadly describes the needs for evidence to support achievement of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) and other policy priorities. This strategy document is accompanied by an annual implementation plan, which details what evidence is needed in the short to medium term to inform policy decision-making, and the medium to long-term evidence that provides the foundational knowledge for the sector.

» Strategy document 2015 - 2025  [PDF - 1,198 kb]]
» Annual implementation plan 2016 - 2017 [PDF - 1,291 kb]]



Overview of current approaches and practices of South African businesses to the mainstreaming of biodiversity - A Preliminary Baseline Assessment, 2015

The National Biodiversity and Business Network (NBBN) was created to support the mainstreaming of biodiversity into business in South Africa. In order to better understand the current status quo in South Africa, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in collaboration with the NBBN decided to conduct this preliminary baseline assessment with the aim of assessing current approaches and practices of South African businesses to mainstream biodiversity.

» download report [PDF - 2.6 mb]



Regional Environmental and Social Assessment (RESA) of Coal Based Energy Projects along Botswana-South Africa Border: Phase 1 and TOR, 2012

The Government of the Republic of Botswana and the Government of the Republic of South Africa have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to carry out a Regional Environmental and Social Assessment (RESA), with support from the World Bank, to examine the cumulative environmental and socio-economic impacts of all the planned and existing energy sector investments on both sides of the border between Botswana and South Africa. In order to define the scope of work for a detailed RESA Study, an initial assessment was made which is included in the Phase-1 Report of the RESA hereby attached.

» download report [PDF - 766kb]



Environment outlook series: state of (reports)


State of environment report (SOER) 2021

The SAE 2021 has attempted to provide users with insight and access to the most up to date information published by the South African government and state-owned entities. To this end, and in keeping with the annual reporting cycle only information published from 2018 has been included. This notwithstanding, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) as the custodian of the SAE website, will provide annual SAE updates in order to continue to provide users with the most up to date government state of environment and environmental outlook information available. 

» visit SOER website 



Second (2nd) South Africa Environment Outlook - a report on the state of the environment, 2016


The second 2nd South Africa Environment Outlook (SAEO) report provides a national 'big picture' snapshot of how South Africa is performing in terms of short- and long-term responses to changing conditions and to assess the effects of human interventions and management actions. The report differs somewhat from its predecessors, in the sense that instead of adopting a scenarios-based approach, the thinking developed around the future environmental state has been crystallized using an 'impact mapping' tool within the trends in environmental data and socio-economic policy directions that have emerged since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994.


Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Part 2


 Life: The State of South Africa's Biodiversity report 2012

Life: the State of South Africa's Biodiversity 2012 is a summary of the National Biodiversity Assessment 2011, which was led by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs, CSIR, South African National Parks and a range of other organisations.

» download report [PDF - 5.21 mb]

Life: The State of South Africa's Biodiversity report 2012



Environment Outlook: A report on the state of environment of South Africa, 2006


This report presents a picture of the condition of the environment and natural resources in South Africa. It discusses the socio-economic factors and external pressures affecting the environment and its management. The report also highlights our vulnerability to an environment that is changing more rapidly than ever before. Based on current trends, the report also provides us with a glimpse of what the future of our environment may look like twenty years from now. The report highlights what South Africa has done to protect and manage the environment and to promote sustainable development. 

Message by Minister, about the report, acknowledgements and synthesis [PDF - 2.31 mb]


Part 1: Setting the scene [PDF - 5.77 mb]
Part II: State of the environment

Part III: Human vulnerability to environmental change [PDF - 3.22 mb]
Part IV: Outlook 2005 - 2025 [PDF - 1.59 mb] 
Part V: Options for action [PDF - 1.84 mb]



The viability of legalising trade in rhino horn in South Africa, 2014

At a Rhino Summit in October 2010, hosted by the then Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, the department agreed to commission a feasibility study to determine the viability of the legalisation of the trade in rhino horn in South Africa. The study had to a) analyse trends in local (national) trade in rhino horn prior to the moratorium that came into effect in February 2009…

» download report [PDF - 1.76 mb]

The viability of legalising  trade in rhino horn  in South Africa - Report



Rhino issue management report, 2013 

This report and its annexures are a compilation of information that includes recommendations for the department to consider and better understanding of the key issues among the stakeholders regarding sustainable rhino conservation. It is presented with the hope that it will assist in developing a solid national position as South Africa prepares for the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties (COP) 16.

» download report [PDF - 5.21 mb]

Rhino issue management report 2013



A study on the dehorning of the African rhinoceroses as a tool to reduce the risk of poaching, 2011

Rhino dehorning has been used historically as a tool to reduce the threat of poaching in parts of southern Africa, and continues to be employed on a large-scale in Zimbabwe. Dehorning is contentious due to uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of the method at reducing poaching, and due to potential veterinary impacts and adverse effects on the behavioural ecology of rhinos. This report is the product of the study on rhino dehorning and was conducted on behalf of the department by the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The aim of the report is to provide clarity on the impacts and efficacy of dehorning and to identify the circumstances under which the intervention is most likely to be effective at reducing poaching.

» download report [PDF - 2.95 mb]



Working for Water priority needs in the field of research include: (a) the need to convince all the relevant people within WfW and its parent departments of the essential nature of the programme’s research effort; (b) the urgent need to secure a sound institutional base for, and to massively increase the human capacity for the research effort that will be necessary if WfW is to have any hope of achieving its long-term objectives among others. 

» read more [web page]



National Biodiversity Assessment, 2018


The National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) is the primary tool for monitoring and reporting on the state of biodiversity in South Africa. It is used to inform policies, strategies and actions in a range of sectors for managing and conserving biodiversity more effectively. Each NBA is named after the year of the data underpinning the assessment. The third NBA, NBA 2018, was released in October 2019. The NBA 2018 has involved nearly five years' groundbreaking work from 2015 to 2019. Over 470 individuals from approximately 90 institutions have worked persistently in providing and processing data, participating in collaborative workshops, authoring chapters on technical reports, and acting as experts and reviewers for the various NBA components. 

read more [web page]



Traditional knowledge associated with rooibos and honeybush species in South Africa, 2014

South Africa has a rich cultural and biological heritage and diversity, with an expansive history of linking these through the traditional use of biological resources. Local traditional knowledge (TK) of the value and use of biological resources is unique to a culture or society and is passed from generation to generation through word of mouth and cultural rituals. This traditional knowledge is usually built by a group of people living in close contact with nature...  

» download report [PDF - 5.08 mb]



National assessment of the Management Effectiveness of South Africa's Protected Areas, 2010

This report addresses goal 4.2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity's Programme of Work for protected areas. The project leading to the report was a collaborative effort, led by the Forum of Chief Executive Officers of Protected Areas, managed by the department  and with the full participation of the following protected area management authorities... 

» download report [PDF - 2.88 mb]



Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, 2010


This report highlights the enormous potential for securing and enhancing human well-being by taking nature’s benefits into account. It provides orientation, guidance and inspiration for local policy makers who want to include these benefits in their policies in order to help create a sustainable future for local communities. This report provides a hands-on overview of frameworks for considering nature. These frameworks structure our take on nature in economic, ecological or developmental terms. The report also introduces three decision support methods by which appraisal and valuation of ecosystem services can directly inform policy choices: cost-benefit analysis, participatory appraisal and multi-criteria analysis. The strengths, weaknesses and requirements of each are discussed.


Executive summary [740.06 kb]
Part1: The opportunity - the value for nature for local development [1.97 mb]
Part 2:

Part 4: Conclusion

Part 3: The practice - the options for creating policies that integrate ecosystems services

Part 3: The practice - the options for creating policies that integrate ecosystems services




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Environmental Management Framework (EMF) Reports


An EMF is a study of the biophysical and socio-cultural systems of a geographically defined area to reveal where specific activities may best be undertaken and to offer performance standards for achieving and maintaining the desired state of that area.


Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site (MCLWHS), 2014 


This report represents the strategic environmental management plan (SEMP) of the EMF process and serves to plot the way forward for attaining the desired state. The SEMP bridges the divide between the current state of the environment in MCLWHS and the desired state. It aims to achieve this by managing the sustainable utilisation of land through Management Guidelines and by controlling the activities that may impact on environmental attributes in specific geographical areas.  


Measuring DEA's Carbon Footprint - 2012/2013 Carbon Footprint Report



he Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site, 2013

The purpose of EMFs is to function as a support mechanism in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process in the evaluation and review of development applications, as well as decision-making. EMFs provide a compilation of information and maps, illustrating attributes of the environment for a specific geographical area that becomes useful in a diverse field of environmental applications, including EIA processes, but also other planning processes, such as the development of IDPs, SDFs and other open space planning applications.

download document [PDF - 5.08 mb]

Measuring DEA's Carbon Footprint - 2012/2013 Carbon Footprint Report



EMF report for Garden Route, 2011

Status quo assessment report [17.61 mb]
Report figures [37.27 mb]
Final report [10.68 mb]




EMF report for Waterberg district, 2010


The EMF will support decision-making in the Waterberg District Municipality area in order to facilitate appropriate and sustainable development. The EMF integrates policies and frameworks and aligns government mandates to streamline decision-making and to improve cooperative governance. The EMF has a number of specific objectives, which include identifying the status quo, development pressures and trends in the area and development a decision support system for development in the area to ensure that environmental attributes, issues and priorities are taken into account.


Framework report

Desired state report

Framework report

Desired state report

Public participation report

Status-quo report




EMF report for Olifants and Letaba (OLEMF) rivers catchment areas, 2009

This report contains the draft of the “status quo” as well as drafts for identified opportunities constraints and the desired state for the EMF area. The purpose of this report is to serve as a basis for interaction with stakeholders and the public. In addition it will also be used as background information for the completion of the EMF, and it will also be used as a communication mechanism in discussions with stakeholders; including member of the Project Steering Committee, the district municipalities as well as stakeholders from the private sector. It is a working document and should not be used for purposes outside the project as the information contained in the document is not properly referenced, some information may still be replaced or updated, and in a few instances information will be added (information that has been requested from government departments but which have not yet been received).  


Status quo report

Public participation

Public participation




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