National Biodiversity Assessment 2011 - an assessment of South Africa's biodiversity and ecosystems

National Biodiversity Assessment 2011 (NBA 2011)

Geographical coverage

Geographical scale of the assessment National
Country or countries covered South Africa
Any other necessary information or explanation for identifying the location of the assessment, including site or region name

National assessment covering terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine environments

Conceptual framework, methodology and scope

Assessment objectives

To assess the state of South Africa’s biodiversity, across terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine environments, emphasising spatial (mapped) information for both ecosystems and species, and providing headline indicators for the status of ecosystems.

To synthesise key aspects of South Africa’s biodiversity science, making it available in a useful form to policymakers, decision-makers and practitioners in a range of sectors.

Mandate for the assessment

The assessment was led by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) as part of its legal mandate to monitor and report on the state of South Africa's biodiversity (mandate given through South Africa's Biodiversity Act of 2004). Many partner organisations were involved.

Conceptual framework and/or methodology used for the assessment

Other (please specify)

Conceptual framework developed initially in South Africa's National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment 2004, refined and strengthened in the NBA 2011. Key elements of the conceptual framework are set out in Chapter 3 of the NBA 2011 Synthesis Report.

URL or copy of conceptual framework developed or adapted

System(s) assessed

  • Marine
  • Coastal
  • Inland water
  • Forest and woodland
  • Grassland
  • Mountain
  • Dryland

Species groups assessed

focus on medicinal plants, harvested marine species, and threatened species across several taxonomic groups

Ecosystem services/functions assessed


  • Water
  • Medicinal resources


Supporting Services/Functions

Cultural Services

Scope of assessment includes

Drivers of change in systems and services


Impacts of change in services on human well-being


Options for responding/interventions to the trends observed


Explicit consideration of the role of biodiversity in the systems and services covered by the assessment


Timing of the assessment

Year assessment started


Year assessment finished


If ongoing, year assessment is anticipated to finish

Periodicity of assessment


If repeated, how frequently

approximately every 7 years

Assessment outputs


Synthesis report and technical reports available at SANBI's BGIS website


Driver, A., Sink, K.J., Nel, J.L., Holness, S.H., Van Niekerk, L., Daniels, F., Jonas, Z., Majiedt, P.A., Harris, L. & Maze, K. 2012. National Biodiversity Assessment 2011: An assessment of South Africa’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Synthesis report. South African National Biodiversity Institute & Department of Environmental Affairs, Pretoria.

Communication materials (e.g. brochure, presentations, posters, audio-visual media)

Journal publications

Training materials

Other documents/outputs

Tools and processes

Tools and approaches used in the assessment

  • Modelling
  • Geospatial analysis
  • Indicators

Process used for stakeholder engagement in the assessment process and which component

The assessment involved over 200 scientists, practitioners and managers from over 30 organisations over a three year period. It was a strongly collaborative process throughout.

Key stakeholder groups engaged

Key stakeholder groups included government (various national and provincial government departments), universities and research institutions, & NGOs

The number of people directly involved in the assessment process


Incorporation of scientific and other types of knowledge

  • Scientific information only
  • Resource experts (e.g. foresters etc)
  • Traditional/local knowledge
  • Citizen science

Supporting documentation for specific approaches, methodology or criteria developed and/or used to integrate knowledge systems into the assessment

Assessment reports peer reviewed



Accessibility of data used in assessment

Some input data accessible. Spatial outputs of the assessment are in the public domain - some are currently available on SANBI's BGIS website, and the rest will be made available as soon as possible.

Policy impact

Impacts the assessment has had on policy and/or decision making, as evidenced through policy references and actions

The National Biodiversity Assessment directly informs South Africa's National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) and National Biodiversity Framework. Information and data from the NBA is used to streamline environmental decision-making (for example in EIAs), to strengthen land-use planning, to strenthen national developemnt planning (for example it has fed into the National Water Resources Strategy), and to inform protected area expansion.

Independent or other review on policy impact of the assessment


Lessons learnt for future assessments from these reviews

Capacity building

Capacity building needs identified during the assessment

Actions taken by the assessment to build capacity

Network and sharing experiences, Sharing of data/repatriation of data, Workshops, Developing/promoting and providing access to support tools

How have gaps in capacity been communicated to the different stakeholders

Knowledge generation

Gaps in knowledge identified from the assessment

Many - these are summarised in the synthesis report and discussed in more detail in the technical reports

How gaps in knowledge have been communicated to the different stakeholders

Additional relevant information