A global collaborative effort to integrate ecological infrastructure into national planning

Project Status: 

ProEcoServ looked at how mainstream biodiversity and ecosystem services can be integrated into multi-sectoral planning processes across scales. CSIR scientists engaged with a variety of role-players involved in ecosystem governance — from local to national scales, and including the public and private sector — to highlight the importance of ecological infrastructure for South Africa’s development.

The programme involved partners from sectors such as agriculture, urban development, water management, insurance and mining during its four-year duration. The focus was on integrating ecosystem-based solutions for disaster risk reduction at a local level; integrated water resource planning at a catchment level; and identifying key policy intervention points at a national level through targeted mainstreaming strategies. 

The ProEcoServ project saw many scientists and policy makers in South Africa working together to ensure that ecosystem services were embedded in national policy. A map of strategic water source areas developed, indicated they make up only 8% of the land area, but provide a staggering 50% of the water, collectively contributing to over half the national economy.

ProEcoServ-SA engaged with key decision makers and facilitated the inclusion of ecosystem services concepts in the National Development Plan, the National Water Resource Strategy, the Disaster Management Act, and the Norms and Standards for Biodiversity Management Plans for Ecosystems. 

Contact Person

Dr Nadia Sitas

Key Concept

Ecological infrastructure
Ecological infrastructure refers to functioning ecosystems like wetlands, coastal dunces, rivers and estuaries that deliver valuable services to people. Ecological infrastructure plays as crucial a role in a country’s development as built infrastructure like roads and railways. South Africa’s wealth of ecological infrastructure – viewed as a nice to have for decades – is increasingly proving to be the cornerstone that underpins urban and rural economies. This ecological infrastructure provides us with many benefits (called ecosystem services) including fertile soil for agriculture, and protection from extreme events – floods, droughts and fire. This is increasingly relevant in the face of the mounting risks of climate change.