The National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (NFEPA) project is a three-year partnership project, led by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) that aims to identify a national network of freshwater conservation areas and to agree on institutional mechanisms for their implementation.
The project builds on the river component of the National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA). “South Africa’s freshwater ecosystems are under pressure,” says Mandy Driver, SANBI’s Director of Biodiversity Policy. “Most our rivers are very hardworking and therefore need healthy tributaries. Water is a greater limiting factor in development than land, and the impacts of climate change are likely to make things more extreme, especially in the Succulent Karoo and Cape Floristic Region.”
Freshwater biodiversity experts from around the country came together at the end of July to review draft maps outlining national freshwater ecosystem priority areas (FEPAs) and their supporting catchments. The production of these maps represents the first time that systematic conservation planning methods have been applied to the full range of freshwater ecosystems on a national scale in South Africa.
Fifteen flagship free-flowing rivers without dams have been identified across different eco-regions. These include the Doring River in the Succulent Karoo, a flagship free flowing river in the country.