Document Sample


                            EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

To come ***

                          PURPOSE OF PROPOSAL
The purpose of this proposal is to provide a framework and strategy to:
 Address dwindling national capacity in biological systematics and
 Provide leadership and co-ordination so as to promote innovative research
   in the field of bio-systematics.
 Empower South African bio-systematists to employ modern and
   developing scientific technologies and approaches with regard to the
   documentation and use and of biological resources.
 Enhance the ability of South African bio-systematics to contribute to the
   National System of Innovation and the information society, and thus to
   respond to national priorities in agriculture, health, sustainable
   development and conservation.
 To assist the broader scientific community and government in the fulfilment
   of national and global biodiversity-related commitments.

1.      VISION

To significantly enhance South Africa’s capacity to undertake research in bio-
systematics, thereby establishing a skills base and information platform at the
foundation of all scientific endeavour in the life sciences, such that full
potential of South Africa’s unique biological resources can be realised and
safeguarded for the future benefit of all.

2.      MISSION

    To take a leading national and international role in the application of
     innovative approaches to re-establish systematics and taxonomy as
     fundamental sciences underpinning biological research.
    To unlock the full potential of South Africa’s biological and human
     resources through the enhanced practice of bio-systematic science using
     modern technology.
    To build on an existing rich historical scientific legacy, including indigenous
     knowledge systems.



The document ‘Taxonomy and systematics research in South Africa: vital
research facing a crisis in capacity and resources’ (Appendix 3) was
submitted to the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Department of
Arts, Culture, Science & Technology (DACST) in May 2001. The issues
identified in that document have been acknowledged as being serious
concerns which, if not addressed, are likely to impact negatively upon South
Africa’s capacity to achieve its national policy objectives and honour its
international commitments with regard to biodiversity conservation and
sustainable use of natural resources.

These concerns focus on research capacity and funding in the fundamental
biodiversity sector, namely taxonomy and systematics. Set against the crucial
role and broad relevance of such research, there has been a chronic decline
in human resource capacity, severe lack of research funding, and an absence
of co-ordination and leadership within the discipline. The sector now clearly
stands at a point beyond which recovery and future progress are under
serious threat. This will jeopardise advancement in many areas of endeavour
in the life sciences, with a potentially negative impact upon environmental and
human welfare.

The present document is the product of a DACST/NRF/Southern African
Society of Systematic Biology/South African Museums Association initiative
aimed at formulating an achievable and sustainable solution to these
impediments. The proposal aims to provide strategic leadership at a national
level, by identifying critical priorities, role players, outputs, linkages and
stakeholders, which will lead to a rejuvenated discipline with enhanced human
capacity, providing a crucial, scientifically sound, fundamental information
platform for the life sciences.

This will require dedicated long-term investment in human resource and
infrastructural development from national government. The rewards, will be
internationally competitive scientific publications of high quality, sustainably
utilised biological resources in the agriculture, economic and health sectors,
and well educated young minds stimulated by the exploration and discovery of
developing technologies and the natural heritage around them. Ultimately, this
will be of long-term benefit to South African society with potential for regional
and continental development.


The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 drew international attention to the looming
biodiversity crisis. In recognition of the scale and global importance of the
issue, the International Convention on the Conservation of Biological Diversity
(CBD) was drawn up and adopted. The objectives of this are threefold
(Glowka et al. 1994):
    the conservation of biological diversity
    the sustainable use of its components.


      the equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of genetic

It is becoming increasingly apparent that human well-being is inextricably
dependent upon the Earth’s biological resources, be this in terms of the
ecological services, economic potential or spiritual benefits that biodiversity
provides. Even so, biodiversity remains the unexplored frontier of the 21st
century, with much fundamental work remaining to be done.

Bio-systematics lies at the cutting edge of this discovery process and is of
crucial importance, constituting the very foundation upon which all down-
stream biological endeavour is based. We cannot hope to conserve or use the
elements of biodiversity sustainably unless we know what they are and where
they are to be found (Cracraft, 1995).

South Africa is blessed with an astonishingly rich flora and fauna (see Text
Box 1). As home to between 250,000 and 1 million living species, it is ranked
the third most biologically diverse country in the world. Many of these species
are known only from South Africa, offering significant competitive advantage
in the research and economic sectors. This diverse and unique natural
heritage is also reflected in the rich traditional knowledge systems
encapsulated in the nation’s indigenous cultural heritage.

However, in line with global trends, an array of human-induced changes
threaten a significant component of this biodiversity, with the potential to
disrupt crucial life-support systems. This is of particular concern in a country
such as South Africa, where the well-being and livelihoods of many poor
people depend directly on the products of wild species. For example, about
80% of South Africans utilise indigenous species for primary healthcare
purposes. Agricultural productivity is also largely dependent on ecosystem
services such as pollination, nutrient cycling and natural biological control.

Because the region’s biota is so very diverse, we have yet to establish the
true extent of this diversity and its importance to human welfare. Often-
repeated statements indicating that existing knowledge of South Africa’s
biodiversity is a noteworthy strength are gross over simplifications. The
potential of South Africa’s biodiversity resources requires strategic harnessing
of available and emerging technological innovations in systematics and
taxonomy. Currently the human and scientific capacity needed to achieve this
synergy is underdeveloped.

While we may have a reasonably complete picture of our vertebrate fauna,
estimates of southern African plant diversity (over 25,000 plant species –
including the whole of one of the world’s six floristic kingdoms, the Cape
Floristic Kingdom - Van Wyk & Smith 2001) are without doubt an under-
estimation. The situation for invertebrate animals is even worse – only about
one third to one half of our insect fauna has been described (Scholtz & Chown
1995). What potential and opportunities are obscured by our lack of
knowledge? These deficiencies must be addressed if this country seriously
intends to conserve our rich biological heritage, understand and benefit in a


sustainable manner from the ecological dynamics of its components, and
maximise its potential for the benefit of humanity.

In this regard, the nation’s botanical herbaria and natural history museums are
of critical importance, and provide a fundamental resource for biodiversity
research. The core function of these institutions is to establish and maintain a
record of the nation’s biological heritage as a reference and research facility
for scientists and the broader community. They are also centres of research
expertise and excellence, providing the only expertise on the continent for the
systematics of many plant and animal groups.

The scientists working in our herbaria and museums are therefore custodians
of scientific collections, information and knowledge very specific to South
Africa and particularly relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of the
nation’s biological resources.

However, recent developments with regard to research funding policy and on-
going financial difficulties in both museums and herbaria have resulted in an
alarming decline in research support and human capacity within the bio-
systematics sector [further details provided in Appendix 3 and 4]. The decline
is such that capacity in this field threatens to fall below critical mass levels,
becoming ineffective and unsustainable. A crucial issue repeatedly identified
in discussions regarding taxonomy and systematics research in South Africa
is a lack of co-ordination and leadership. Scattered throughout the nation’s
museums, herbaria and universities, the practitioners of fundamental
biodiversity science are institutionally and governmentally fragmented (falling
under Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST),
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), Department of
Education (DoE) and provincial governments). As a result they have been
unable to lobby collectively and address their shared concerns and objectives.
This has led to a situation in which the discipline’s capacity to fulfil its role and
meet its responsibilities in terms of national priorities is now severely

The purpose of this initiative is to provide the crucial leadership, co-ordination
and strategy that were previously lacking. This we hope to achieve through
the formation of a national bio-systematics initiative, the SABI, that will
rejuvenate the discipline and position it strategically. This will enable the
discipline to assume its rightful position as a critical fundamental science
focusing on resources of inestimable value to the nation and the world.


Text Box 1
   South Africa is the third most biologically diverse country in the world. Estimates of
    the total number of species in the country vary from 250 000 to one million.
   Perhaps as much as 50% of South Africa's biodiversity remains undiscovered.
   South Africa has the richest temperate flora in the world, with two floristic kingdoms
    within its borders, the Palaeotropical and the Cape Floristic Kingdoms, with a large
    diversity of landscapes including seven biomes (Rutherford & Westfall, 1994). 18
    000 plant species occur in South Africa.
   Of the global fauna, South Africa is home to: 6.1% (241) of mammal species, 7%
    (800) of bird species, 4.6% (498) of reptile species, 15% (2200) of marine fish
    species, 5.5% (43565) of recorded insect species, 7% (2000) of spiders. Over 8800
    marine invertebrate species occur along the SA coast, of which 36% are endemic.
   The level of terrestrial endemism in southern Africa is more akin to that of oceanic
    islands than to a portion of a continent (Van Wyk & Smith, 2001; Cowling & Hilton-
    Taylor, 1994).
   Eleven plant families are endemic to southern Africa, and 80% of the species and
    29% of the genera of the Flora of Southern Africa (FSA) region are endemic
    (Cowling & Hilton-Taylor, 1994).
   Of the approximately 80 000 terrestrial invertebrates recorded in SA, on average
    50% are endemic, but for many groups (for example, scorpions, earthworms,
    millipedes, land snails), as many as 80-100% occur only in this country.
   This endemism has largely been attributed to the diverse ecological conditions of
    southern Africa relative to the rest of the continent, as well as the high speciation
    within some of the genera endemic to the region (Van Wyk & Smith, 2001; Cowling
    & Hilton-Taylor, 1994).
   Eight biodiversity hotspots have been recognised in southern Africa (Cowling &
    Hilton-Taylor, 1994). Two of these are also globally recognised as hotspots
    (Meyers et al., 2000), namely:
   the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the richest of the world’s hotspots of plant diversity
    (Cowling & Hilton-Taylor, 1994); and
   the Succulent Karoo biome, the most speciose arid zone in the world (Huntley
    1994; Van Wyk & Smith, 2001), and the only arid zone hotspot recognised globally.
         [A hotspot is an area characterised by a high species richness, a high
         concentration of endemics and which is also experiencing high rates of habitat
         modification or loss (Meyers, 1988 & 1990)].
   These eight hotspots contain around 8830 endemic plant species, which is 52.2%
    of the regional endemic flora in 12.1% of the area. This figure further translates to
    3.5% of the world’s flora on 0.2% of the earth’s surface (Cowling & Hilton-Taylor,
   Many animal and plant species in southern Africa are threatened with extinction
    due to habitat loss through agriculture, mining, industrial development and
   Both in terms of area and in an absolute sense, southern Africa has the highest
    concentration of threatened plant taxa in the world (Cowling & Hilton-Taylor 1994;
    Hilton-Taylor, 1996). The 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants (Walter &
    Gillet, 1998) lists 2652 plant species as threatened in the ten countries of southern


The exceptional nature and importance of South Africa’s biological heritage is
highlighted in many white papers, policy documents and strategic reports,
across many sectors of governance (should we include examples in an
Appendix?***). From these documents it is clear that governmental vision
sees this natural heritage not only as part of our past, but as an integral
element in the nation’s future. In the words of our constitution ‘Everyone has
the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and
future generations ….’

In order for this vision to be realised, and for present and future generations to
receive greatest benefit from the potential inherent in the nation’s bio-
resources, it is essential that scientific endeavour in this sector be based on a
robust, scientifically sound foundation. Providing such a foundation is the core
function of bio-systematics and is the central focus of this proposal.

Bio-systematics involves the discovery, description and classification of the
components of biodiversity, and the interpretation of their origins and
evolutionary relationships, both in space and time. In so doing, it provides the
conceptual framework for the organisation and analysis of all biological
knowledge. The vision of the SABI is to strengthen this framework and render
it accessible and beneficial to the nation.

The crucial role of bio-systematics in underpinning research on the
sustainable use of South Africa’s bio-resources and meeting governmental
goals in terms of wealth generation and improved quality of life was
highlighted in the Foresight Biodiversity Report (DACST, 2000) and in the
White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s
Biological Diversity (‘Biodiversity White Paper‘ DEAT, 1997). The Foresight
Report, which considered knowledge of the composition of our biodiversity to
lie at the core of its focus, noted that much still remains unknown and that
without adequate knowledge of the nature and distribution of biodiversity, no
scientifically based nature conservation or sustainable utilisation will be
possible. The report further noted that fundamental biodiversity research was
an activity area of primary concern, warranting special attention from the
research and technology sector and requiring priority R&D investment.

Whilst acknowledging the importance of bio-systematics, the Biodiversity
White Paper noted (as have many other review documents) that there is a dire
shortage of human resources in the fields of taxonomy and systematics in
South Africa, and that even the limited existing capacity is under threat.
Documents submitted to DACST and the NRF during 2001 (Appendix 3 and 4,
which have discussed this issue in greater detail, have now led to the
submission of this proposal. Channelled through the SABI, research and
technology investment would specifically target this research field and would
make a major contribution to resolving the current crisis in skills, resources
and leadership.


It is the SABI’s goal that such investment should focus on the promotion of
scientific excellence and the enhancement of human capacity in bio-
systematics. Critical to this will be the use of modern technologies such as
computerised spatial analysis and molecular sequencing. Development of
human capacity will take place through education and training, which, with
buy-in from key stakeholders (e.g. DACST (Arts & Culture), DEAT and
provincial governments) will lead to job creation and a larger bio-systematics
workforce. These objectives are very much in line with priorities identified in
the Science and Technology White Paper, and the National System of

SABI activities will further contribute to the aims of the Science and
Technology White Paper with regard to the promotion of the information
society. This will take place at many levels, ranging from the generation of
new knowledge through internationally competitive research to the provision
ever more robust biodiversity data bases, the preparation of popular access
tools (e.g. field-guides and interactive web-based keys) and the promotion of
the discipline through SET awareness projects. Promotion of the discipline is
vital to its sustainability and growth. It is important therefore that the SABI
provide leadership in this regard so that the discipline’s image can be
revitalised (see Text Box 2).

Acknowledging that western scientific methods are not the only means by
which nature is classified, SABI aims to promote research into the indigenous
knowledge systems associated with traditional taxonomies and classifications
(‘ethnobio-systematics’). With increasing urbanisation, traditional methods of
classification and their underlying belief systems are becoming much less
widely known, and subsequent dissemination of this information through
outreach and awareness projects will be important.

In line with the basic human rights enshrined in our constitution and its
concern that bio-resource use should be sustainable, the South African
government has committed itself to a number of international initiatives which
focus on the relationship between human well-being and environmental health
(e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity). Affirmation of this commitment is
evident in our hosting of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development
and President Mbeki’s concern that this summit should lead to significant and
meaningful progress. Our obligations in terms of these commitments
necessitate or presuppose an adequate knowledge of the composition and
distribution of our biological resources (Jaarsveld and Chown, 1996), and
require that we formulate a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. In
promoting capacity at the foundation of biodiversity research, the SABI will
make an important contribution to our ability to meet these commitments and

With an augmented and more highly skilled bio-systematics workforce, South
Africa will be able to build upon its existing contribution and play a leadership
role in fundamental biodiversity research in SADC, on the African continent
and indeed globally. In the absence of investment, progress in the life
sciences in South Africa will be hindered, a significant proportion of our biota


will remain undiscovered, the conservation and the sustainable use of our bio-
resources will be threatened and food security and human health could be
compromised. We will have no authoritative sources of expertise within the
country and will be increasingly reliant on international scientists who will lack
local knowledge and understanding.

Text Box 2
 Bio-systematics - an exciting and rewarding discipline, at the cutting-edge
                          of biodiversity science.
Promotion of the bio-systematics is vital to its sustainability and growth. It is important
therefore that the SABI provide leadership in this regard so that the discipline’s image
can be revitalised.

Most people are amazed that there are still species unknown to science awaiting
discovery, and the concept of finding an un-named organism is both challenging and
exciting. We must capitalise on this ‘excitement of discovery’. Similarly, undertaking
biological research in South Africa’s unique indigenous natural habitats is the stuff of
dreams for many people – yet for bio-systematists this is a line-function activity. There is
no reason why bio-systematics should continue to be seen as a low-key science
undertaken in the depths of museums and herbaria. With the likelihood of discovering
plants and animals new to science, exceptional field opportunities and the challenge of
using state-of-the-art technologies as research tools, we can change this image around
so that the country’s young people perceive bio-systematics as an exciting and
rewarding, cutting-edge science.

NB. If it is also to be viewed as an attractive career option then the issues of low salaries
and limited promotion prospects will need to be addressed by the responsible
government authorities. Strategic lobbying in this regard will be critical.
[*** should we put this note in? It is something that is beyond the control of SABI and
perhaps we should not mention it.]


     6.1.       Front line contributors (potential recipients of SABI funding,
     who will ultimately be responsible for the conception and implementation of
     projects within the SABI thrusts, and thus the achievement of SABI

        Plant and animal systematists through out the country (based primarily
         at universities, museums, herbaria, NBI and PPRI).
        Biodiversity scientists in conservation agencies.
        Collection managers in charge of South Africa’s biological collections.
        Ethnologists researching indigenous knowledge systems.
        Management authorities, and education and display staff at museums,
         herbaria, botanical gardens and institutions conducting bio-systematics


     6.2.       Key governmental departments and agencies

        DACST (Science & Technology) – project funding; S&T policy input;
         support agency for NRF and Innovation Fund, sponsor of SA-ISIS and
        DACST (Arts & Culture) – heritage policy input; support agency for
         most museum-based scientists.
        DEAT – participation critical to effective co-ordination i.r.o. shared
         DACST/DEAT objectives; biodiversity and tourism policy input; support
         agency for NBI, SANParks, M&CM and co-sponsor of much marine
         science; potential co-sponsor of SABI.
        DWAF – identification of relevant water resource and forestry priorities;
         policy input.
        NDA – identification of SABI role i.r.o. agriculture priorities; agriculture
         policy input; support agency for ARC (PPRI).
        DoE - identification of SABI role i.r.o. education priorities; support
         agency for university-based scientists; potential partner in
         education/training projects.
        NRF – project facilitation and administrative support.


The SABI will not function in isolation. Operating at the foundation of the life
sciences, the initiative will have broad, cross-sectoral relevance in terms of
governmental priorities and socio-economic needs. Consequently the number
of potential stakeholders, partnerships and project linkages will be

     7.1. International

      International Conventions:

          Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
          Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC)
          Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna
           and Flora (CITES)
          RAMSAR Wetlands Convention
          Convention on Combating Desertification (CCD)
          Bonn Convention on Migratory Species
        Global bio-systematics imperatives: BioNET-International British
         Government Systematics Initiative, Diversitas, , GTI, , Systematics
         Agenda 2000.


      Global biodiversity inventory initiatives: All Species Project, GBIF,
       GISP, Tree of Life, Species 2000.
      International conservation agencies: Conservation International, IUCN,
      Museums across the world that hold South African material, and bio-
       systematists across the world who have expertise not represented in
       South Africa.

   7.2. Local
    National government departments statutory bodies etc. : DACST,
      DEAT, DoE, DWAF, NDA, ARC, CSIR, National Biodiversity Institute
      (as yet only a DEAT concept), NBI, SANCOR.
    Identified research thrusts: the Sea and Coast Programme;
      Conservation and Management of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.
    National research initiatives: BENEFIT, BCLME, SAEON, SA-ISIS,
    Existing biodiversity inventory initiatives: BioMAP, PRECIS.
    GEF supported programmes: CAPE, SABONET, SKEP, STEP
    Protected areas in South Africa and their managers/owners.

Linkages to two existing DACST-funded initiatives, namely SAEON and SA-
ISIS (BioMAP) have already been provisionally established. Components of
all three programmes are inter-related and are likely to benefit considerably
from the synergy of collaboration. Enhanced bio-systematics capacity in terms
of human and information resources will undoubtedly be beneficial to both

Further examples of the cross-sectoral application of bio-systematics research
are given in the Text Box 3 .


Text Box 3
                   SABI – applications and stakeholders
Agriculture – alternative crops; pest research; bio-control; identification and
interception of alien species;         quarantine control; veterinary science;
Conservation Farming Project.
Community – NGO’s and CBO’s (PLAAS, SANF, WESSA); special interest
groups, IKS promotion, disease transmission, ‘out of school’ education; SAPS.
Conservation – biological inventory; hot-spot analysis; predictive modelling,
identification of priority conservation areas, reserve selection; red-listing; bio-
indicators; impact assessment; tourism promotion; invasive species; IKS
promotion; conservation projects (CAPE, SKEP, STEP), climate change
research, habitat fragmentation studies, IUCN-SSC specialist groups.
Crime – forensic science.
Education – Informal and formal; primary, secondary, tertiary and
postgraduate; curriculum enrichment; public understanding of science;
promotion of environmental awareness; life-long learning; IKS promotion; OBE;
mentorship; work experience.
Governance – National (DACST, DEAT, DoE, DWAF, NDA), provincial and
local, National Biodiverstiy Strategy and Action Plan, international bodies and
conventions (CBD -COP, CITES, GEF, IUCN, UNDP, UNEP, WWF).
Health – disease transmission (e.g. malaria and bilharzia,); traditional
Industry – bio-technology, bio-prospecting, pharmaceuticals, private sector
tourism, publishing; environmental consultants
Science - all plant and animal sciences; palaeo-world research; earth science;
IKS research; regional programmes (BCLME, BENEFIT, SABONET, SAEON,
SAFRINET, Sea & Coast Programme, SANAP, SA-ISIS NRF [CMEB]);
international programmes (BioNET, Diversitas, GBIF, GISP, GTI, Species 2000,
Systematics Agenda 2000, Tree of Life,)
Statutory bodies – ARC, CSIR, KZN Wildlife, M&CM. MRC, NBI, SANParks,
Tourism – visitor information resources; experience enhancement; guide
training; IKS promotion, theme-based ecotourism.


To achieve the SABI vision and mission, the following objectives will be

    Establish a modern systematics network for the provision of taxonomic
     information to all stakeholders
    Develop and enhance systematics capacity at various levels through
     training and job creation
    Support and enhance the existing collections comprising South Africa’s
     biological heritage archive


    Gather, provide and disseminate information on South Africa’s biological
     resources to enhance public awareness of their intrinsic value
    Guide and co-ordinate strategic systematics research
    Enhance systematics research excellence and training through the use of
     modern technologies
    Provide taxonomic support for critical fields including human and animal
     health, agriculture, conservation and forensic sciences
    Provide basic information on rare indigenous and endemic species for
     conservation purposes
    Establish electronic archives of biological resources data, including that
     repatriated from past colonial powers
    Incorporate indigenous taxonomy and classification systems into future
     scientific endeavours, and disseminate knowledge of IKS
    Attract people of calibre to the science of bio-systematics
    Promote further exploration and documentation of South Africa’s unique
     fauna and flora


    A modern systematics information network (a GBIF South African node),
     linked to the SA-ISIS programme, would lead to the establishment of an
     infrastructure to capture existing biological resource data in a central web-
     based electronic database. All South African museums and herbaria would
     be linked and accessible to a wide range of stakeholders and users. The
     South African GBIF node will be established to incorporate existing
     biodiversity databases such as PRECIS and BIOMAP.
    Systematics capacity should be developed at community and institutional
     levels by the training and employment of para-taxonomists, technologists
     and graduate students, and the provision of bursaries and mentorship
     Community level para-taxonomic training should ideally be linked to the
     SAEON programme and support museum and herbarium collections.
     Postgraduate training could be achieved through the provision of
     dedicated bursaries, and special systematics programmes at identified
     tertiary institutions and collaborating museums and herbaria.
    South Africa has exceptional national treasures in the form of biological
     collections, archives and indigenous knowledge. Due to declining
     resources, however, many collections have deteriorated over the years.
     This must be reversed by improving and expanding the curatorial and
     physical infrastructure at leading institutions, and the incorporation of
     indigenous knowledge into the national database.
    Inform and educate the public about the discovery and value of SA’s
     unique biological resources and the enormous potential of these resources
     through the implementation of an innovative, creative, and exciting
     promotional and education programme, the involvement of the media
     through theme displays at educational institutions and museums. These
     could take the form of newspaper, radio and television exposure, static


      displays at museums and travelling exhibitions, as well as web-pages, field
      guides and national science initiatives.
     Establish a scientific review panel under the auspices of the National
      Research Foundation to prioritise and evaluate bio-systematics research in
      SA and to advise on funding allocation for this research. This panel’s
      mandate should include promotion of international collaboration in bio-
      systematics research, skills acquisition from overseas institutions, data
      sharing and scientific excellence.
     In view of the modern technological revolution that systematics is
      undergoing, South African systematists must reposition themselves
      (through retooling, and training exercises and opportunities) to apply the
      sophisticated technology that is now available. This includes: web-based
      information systems, electronic publications, development of multiple-entry
      electronic keys, design of artificial neural networks (artificial intelligence
      systems), for automatic identification of taxa, relational databases and
      modern DNA/RNA sequencing technology. These will lead to the
      application of Geographic Information Systems analysis, and
      enhancement of biogeographic and phylogenetics research.
     Further practical application of electronic tools and web-based information
      will support identification of organisms for quarantine services, human and
      animal health, agriculture, conservation and forensic science.
     Since bio-systematics is the only science that provides basic information
      on South Africa’s rare indigenous and threatened species, the application
      of this knowledge through the use of GIS and spatial modelling technology,
      for example, is fundamental to the crucial areas of conservation planning,
      environmental impact assessments and the sustainable use of biological
     Design and construct a national web-based database (GBIF node) that will
      integrate data across multiple platforms including modern systematics,
      indigenous knowledge and data repatriated from institutions in past
      colonial powers. This database will be readily accessible to all for
      research, information and decision-making purposes.
     To attract potential students to systematics, the science must re-invent
      itself to compete with other biological disciplines. This can be achieved by
      incorporating the modern technologies now available into courses at
      tertiary level, and by ensuring that bursaries and career opportunities are
      available and positions are created. The discipline should also be
      promoted at school and undergraduate levels.
     Opportunity must be provided to support the expansion of South Africa’s
      biodiversity knowledge base through dedicated field exploration such as
      monitoring at SAEON sites or strategic biodiversity surveys.




       Aim: To provide an accurate assessment of the extent and composition
       of South Africa’s biodiversity.
              This assessment will be based on collections, libraries,
       databases, archives and expert knowledge. The objective of project is
       to synthesise and review the current state of our knowledge and
       understanding of South Africa’s diverse biological heritage.
       Systematists and taxonomists throughout the country will be
       encouraged to participate, and contribute to this national project. The
       results of the assessment will be distributed in an appropriate and
       accessible medium for use by all sectors of society. They will also
       inform the process of identifying priority areas for further research
       investment within SABI.


       Aim: To design and establish a database model to record and
       disseminate information on SA’s biodiversity including hitherto
       undocumented information on indigenous knowledge systems.
              The project would include the collation of existing data sources,
       expansion to incorporate further historical information and data
       collected by existing initiatives such as PRECIS and BIOMAP. Data
       emanating from future biological surveys will be incorporated. The
       system should be designed to make these data available on a web site
       for use in modern applications such as GIS analyses, forensic
       sciences, DNA sequencing and genome projects (e.g. the Coelacanth
       Project), and multiple entry electronic keys and matrices for artificial
       neural networks (for automated identification systems). These
       developments should also be linked to existing national information
       systems such as SA-ISIS.

       10.3 INITIATE PARA-TAXONOMY               TRAINING     AND     EXPAND

       Aim: To enlarge the taxonomic workforce by training para-taxonomists
       to undertake biological surveys, focusing on priority sites identified in
       conjunction with linked initiatives and stakeholders.
               In view of the poor state of documentation of SA’s fauna and
       flora, and limited human capacity, there is urgent need to train
       additional practitioners in this field. These sites will be determined in
       collaboration with conservation agencies, such as SANParks and
       linked initiatives such as SAEON, SKEP and CAPE. Permanent
       positions will need to be created and supported to accommodate the
       para-taxonomists and professional systematists, who will be tasked
       with documenting the fauna and flora. These surveys will also
       incorporate and document indigenous knowledge about the fauna and
       flora. This could be realised through the availability of dedicated
       bursaries for promising para-taxonomists to undertake tertiary study in
       the field of ethnobiology.



The SABI will be structured as follows (see organogram):

11.1.   Management and Coordinating Structures

11.1.1. Advisory Board, which will include representatives from relevant
stakeholder and sponsor organisations and national departments (DEAT,
DACST, DWAF, NDA, NRF), the Director of the SABI, and the Chair of the
Steering Committee.
         An SABI "patron" and an appropriate representative of the NEPAD
initiative will also be represented on the Advisory Board. The NRF will call for
nominations from such organisations and the NRF President, on the advice of
the Appointments Committee (see 11.1.4.), will appoint the Board and its
Chair. The terms of reference of this Board will be to provide strategic inputs,
guidance, leadership and advocacy, with regard to the SABI, to monitor and
assess the performance of the SABI, and to review the terms of reference for
the Steering Committee from time-to-time. The Advisory Board will be
appointed for a three-year period.

11.1.2. Steering Committee, which will consist of representatives from the
Southern African Society for Systematic Biology, the South African Museums
Association, the National Botanical Institute, SANParks, and SANBI (or its
equivalent structure resulting from the Biodiversity Act) as well as a
representative from the NRF. The NRF will call for nominations from such
organisations and groups and the NRF President, on the advice of the
Appointments Committee, will appoint the Steering Committee, including the
      The SABI Director will be an ex officio member of the Steering
Committee. The main terms of reference of the Steering Committee will be to
develop and review the overall SABI programme and strategy; to review and
monitor the implementation of the overall programme and strategy, to approve
the annual workplan, develop criteria and process to determine project
funding allocations, to monitor the financial expenditure of the SABI, ensure
an adequate balance of resource allocation and use within the programme,
and to facilitate linkages and collaboration with similar activities in the region
and on the African continent.

11.1.3. Central Co-ordinating Office. The central office will be located within
the NRF. The administrative and financial support systems of the NRF will be
used to support this office. The office will be run by a Director, who will be
appointed by the Appointments Committee. An IT Manager and an
Administrative Assistant will also be located within the office, and they will be
appointed by the Appointments Committee and the SABI Director.
      The Director will be responsible for ensuring the timely and effective
implementation of all components of the programme, co-ordination of activities


within the programme, for ensuring that regular monitoring and evaluation
reports are submitted to the NRF as the responsible agent of the SABI
structure, communication and publicity of activities, and facilitation of the
Steering Committee and Advisory Board meetings.

11.1.4. Appointments Committee. The Appointments Committee will consist
of representatives of primary stakeholder constituencies, including the NRF,
DACST, DEAT, ARC, NBI, the museum community (SAMA) and researchers
representing the SASSB. The Committee will be appointed by the NRF
President, and will advise the President on the appointment of the SABI
Central Co-ordinating Office staff, the Advisory Committee and the Steering

11.2. Supporting Thrusts
The activities of the SABI will be divided into three focus areas:

11.2.1. Research
With a funding allocation to bio-systematics research that is of high quality,
innovative, state-of-the-art, relevant, with wide application, and is made
accessible to society. Some examples of the kind of research projects to be
funded through the programme include automated identification systems,
multi-taxon surveys of areas perceived to be of particular
evolutionary/conservation significance, monographs of neglected taxa using
new techniques for distinguishing species, phylogenies that use new
character systems and bring new understanding to evolutionary processes,
and projects that link the living- and palaeo-worlds leading to advances in our
understanding of macro-events in Earth history. A flagship project which fits
the programme criteria, and which will include a wide range of stakeholders
and participants will be selected for implementation at the initiation of SABI.
       In general terms this thrust will benefit the National System of
Innovation in that it will promote co-ordination and collaboration within the bio-
systematic community across previously disparate sectors (e.g. botany and
zoology). By providing this leadership, it will also overcome the limited co-
ordination between institutions and sub-disciplines, and the performance of
both individuals and institutions in the field will be increased.

11.2.2. Education
This focus covers education at school level, capacity development at tertiary
education level and public awareness. A variety of strategies will be
developed to address the enormous lack of understanding of bio-systematics
and its significance amongst the majority of South Africa's public.
These strategies include investigation of indigenous classification systems
and taxonomies, the production of museum displays and education materials
using this information to explain the meaning of bio-systematics, the inclusion
of scholars in biodiversity surveys, and the development of exciting and
enjoyable web-based games that develop understanding of bio-systematic


concepts and the diversity of South Africa's bioresources. Links to existing
community outreach and environmental education organisations will be
established to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of awareness and
education activities.

This thrust of the SABI will also include the development of high-level skills,
competencies, values and attitudes required for sustainable progress in the
field of biosystematics. Specific strategies towards human resource
development will be underpinned by fostering a supportive research culture.
Capacity development will include the training of para-taxonomists capable of
processing large quantities of biological specimens, collection managers to
maintain and improve our national bio-systematic collections, and bio-
systematists to undertake research so as to improve and expand our
fundamental biodiversity information platform.

11.2.3. Infrastructure
Bio-systematics as a discipline is dependent on the biological material stored
in museums and herbaria. It is critical that these collections be maintained to
internationally acceptable standards, continue to grow and remain accessible.
An important SABI strategy will therefore be to improve curation standards for
neglected or threatened collections of specific strategic value, and to support
continued electronic capture of collection data.
It is envisaged that the funding of such projects will, wherever possible, be
linked to equivalent co-funding allocated by the institution housing the
collection. Repatriation of data housed in overseas collections will also be
IT infrastructure will need to be developed to manage, and provide access to
the electronic data housed in biosystematic collections and those data
generated through the programme. There is potential for aspects of this to be
linked to SAISIS, but for specific parts (development and management of
electronic bio-systematics tools, products and technologies), dedicated IT
infrastructure will need to be developed.



The Steering Committee will not only determine thrust priorities, but will also
be tasked with evaluating thrust outcomes. This could be based on the
following criteria:

     Application of resultant improved bio-systematics skills and information in
      the fields of agriculture, health sciences, conservation and education.
     Publication in peer-reviewed and popular print, and via electronic media.
     Conference participation.
     Training of tertiary and para-taxonomy students, particularly those from
      designated groups, and their subsequent deployment.
     Collaborative regional and international scientific endeavours.
     Improvement and maintenance of infrastructure including museum and
      herbarium collections and archives.


     Promotion of the public understanding of science and generation of
      awareness regarding environmental issues through education projects.
     Progress in the establishment and maintenance of posts for bio-
      systematists, technologists, technicians, collections and data-base
      managers and para-taxonomists, especially those from designated groups.
     Identify performance indicators and assessment criteria for subsequent
      review procedures.

The SABI is envisaged as a long-term initiative, aimed at addressing the
current critical state of bio-systematics capacity in South Africa, so that the
discipline can fulfil its obligations in terms of government policy and contribute
towards a sustainable future for South Africa. However, explicit objectives
need to be set and achieved within specific time frames in order to ensure that
the overall mission of the SABI is met.

13.1. Proposed Goals for 2003 / 2004 (see workplan, Appendix 1)
    Establish an Appointments committee to select the Advisory Board,
      Steering Committee and the staff of the Central Coordinating Office.
    Appoint an Advisory Board for a period of three years, with terms of
      reference to provide strategic direction, and to evaluate progress.
    Appoint a SABI Steering Committee for a four-year period to develop
      an operational strategic plan, and a sustainable financial strategy, as
      well as to develop criteria for project funding.
    Appoint key staff (Director, IT specialist and administrative assistant)
      for the Central Coordinating Office.
    Development of operational programme and strategy
    Officially launch the SABI, with associated publicity.
    Establish a website for publicising the SABI and advertising activities.
    Initiate and fund flagship projects.
    Formalise stakeholder involvement
    Announcement of programme descriptions and project criteria as
      developed by the Steering Committee.
    Call for first project proposals for consideration for funding.
    Develop education and public awareness strategy.

13.2. Proposed Medium-Term Goals (2004-2007)
    Allocate research and postgraduate training funds, based on
      assessment of proposals received in 2003.
    Allocate funding for key strategic bio-systematic collection rescue /
      upgrading / data capture.
    Initiate public awareness campaign, including investigation of
      indigenous classification systems.
    Establish IT infrastructure for management of bio-systematic tools and


      Strengthen and continue training courses for para-taxonomists,
       collection managers and technologists.
      Development and implementation of short training courses for
       developing electronic identification products, as well as other important
       short training courses identified by the Steering Committee.
      Finalise flagship projects.
      Conduct review and evaluation of programme progress and strategies.

13.3. Proposed Overarching Long-Term Goals / Objectives
    Systematic revision of representatives of key groups of organisms
    Multi-taxon, bio-systematic survey of significant SAEON site/s
      undertaken and data analysed to provide baseline taxonomic data for
      site/s, also highlighting the significance of bio-systematics for
      ecological and biodiversity research and the conservation of
    Nationally significant bio-systematic collections upgraded, expanded
      through surveys of neglected areas and through repatriation of data
      from international institutions. Data housed in these collections
      accessible to a broad range of data users.
    Establishment of a South Africa bio-systematic information platform
      which is widely accessible.
    Development of a wide range of electronic identification systems for
      biological organisms, and other technological tools for increasing
      accessibility of bio-systematic data.
    Critical mass of bio-systematists trained, and number of postgraduate
      students entering the discipline maintained at a level to sustain
      research in the discipline at globally competitiveness and
      independence of South African biological sciences.
    Existing bio-systematic researchers retooled and trained to approach
      research in an innovative and competitive manner.
    Capacity in para-taxonomy and collection management developed, and
      ongoing training programmes ensures these fields are dynamic and
      attractive to school-leavers.
    Strategic links relevant to the discipline of bio-systematics, made to
      other African countries to facilitate training, and maintenance of key
      collections, and for the exchange and sharing of data and expertise.
    Increased collaboration and interaction between South African bio-
      systematists and life scientists in other disciplines in research and
      training activities.
    Public awareness activities ongoing to establish widespread and
      common understanding of bio-systematics and its importance, ensuring
      that the public support research in the field, and that scholars
      understand, appreciate and are excited by bio-systematics and the
      exploration and discovery involved in researching the rich diversity of
      South Africa’s natural heritage.
    Broad support and appreciation for the programme gained at national
      and international levels, amongst a wide range of stakeholders and life
      science researchers.


         Appropriately staggered, internationally benchmarked reviews of the
          programme to evaluate its progress and delivery on its key
          performance areas.

14.       BUDGET

Budget details are provided in Appendix 2. The proposed budget for the
period 2003/2004 (1 year) is R4 million, with a R8 million annual grant
thereafter for 2004/5 and 2005/6.


ARC          Agricultural Research Council
BCLME        Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem programme
BENEFIT      Benguela Environment Fisheries Interaction Training programme
BioMAP       Biodiversity Monitoring Assessment Programme (South Africa)
BioNET       The Global Network for Bio-systematics
CAPE         Cape Action Plan for the Environment
CBD          Convention on Biological Diversity
CITES        Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
COP          Conference of Parties
CSIR         Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
DACST        Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
DEAT         Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
DoE          Department of Education
DWAF         Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
FSA          Flora of Southern Africa
GBIF         Global Biodiversity Information Facility
GEF          Global Environment Facility
GISP         Global Invasive Species Programme
GTI          Global Taxonomy Initiative
IKS          Indigenous Knowledge Systems
IUCN         World Conservation Union
M&CM         Marine & Coastal Management
MRC          Medical Research Council
NBI          National Botanical Institute of South Africa
NBRI         National Botanical Research Institute of Namibia
NBSAP        National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan
NDA          National Department of Agriculture, South Africa
NRF          National Research Foundation
OBE          Outcomes-Based Education
PLAAS        Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies
PPRI         Plant Protection Research Institute
PRECIS       National Herbarium, Pretoria (PRE) Computerised Information System
RAMSAR       Convention on Wetlands of International Importance
SABI         South African Bio-systematics Initiative
SABONET      Southern African Botanical Diversity Network
SADC         Southern African Development Community
SAEON        South African Environmental Observatory Network
SA-ISIS      South African Integrated Spatial Information System
SAMA         South African Museums Association
SANAP        South African National Antarctic Programme
SANBI        South African National Biodiversity Institute (or similar DEAT initiative)
SANCOR       South African Network for Coastal and Oceanographic Research
SANF         South African Nature Foundation
SANParks     South African National Parks
SASSB        Southern African Society for Systematic Biology
SKEP         Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Planning Strategy
SSC          Species Survival Commission (IUCN)
STEP         Sub-tropical Thicket Ecosystem Planning Project
UNDP         United Nations Development Programme
UNEP         United Nations Environment Programme
WESSA        Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa
WWF          World Wide Fund for Nature



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Appendix 1     workplan for 2003-4
Appendix 2 budget
Appendix 3     blue document ‘Taxonomy and systematics research in South
Africa: vital research facing a crisis in capacity and resources’
Appendix 4     SAJS paper – Museums Natural Science and the NRF – pdf file
Appendix 5      a possibility - further details and examples of how bio-
       systematics relates to gov’t policy – essentially a series of quotes from
       white papers etc.? ***


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