Freshwater Research Centre (2016)

Planning grant to develop a freshwater biodiversity information system for evaluating long term change in rivers in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa

Project Details

Grantee Organization: Freshwater Research Centre
Grant Amount: $30,000
Contact: Dr. Helen Dallas
Contact Email: helen 'atsign'
Funding Dates: 8/1/16 - 4/30/17


The unique freshwater biodiversity of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region (CFR) is under enormous pressure from climate change, human activities, and invasive species. River health is deteriorating faster than it can be measured. The data that do exist, suggest that human impacts have, and continue to, severely compromise biodiversity. This can have serious adverse consequences for ecosystem services, such as the provision of food and safe, clean drinking water.

The region lacks an informative and accessible database for hosting riverine freshwater biodiversity data, impeding assessments of historic and current river conditions. Such information is critical to establish baselines and patterns of change, which are, in turn, necessary to help predict the impacts of future changes to the region’s biodiversity and ecosystem services.

To fill this need, the Freshwater Research Centre is undertaking a planning project to develop a vision and project plan, and a community of partners, a biodiversity information system for the aquatic biodiversity of the Cape Floristic Region.

Key Objectives and Activities

  1. Convene partners from key organizations to develop a shared vision for a freshwater biodiversity information system for decision making in the CFR.
  2. Cement partnerships and determine partner roles and responsibilities.
  3. Develop, in collaboration with technical partners, and information system plan.
  4. Produce a detailed project plan, including a funding proposal, for a Freshwater Biodiversity Technical Project from JRS.

Planned Outputs

  • Workshop with project partners.
  • Proceedings document summarizing workshop discussions and output.
  • Partner meetings to hone specific components of the vision for the system and partner contributions.
  • Project plan and full proposal to JRS to support development of information system.

Planned Outcomes

The Freshwater Research Centre seeks to build consensus, vision, and plans for construction of an information system to be funded by JRS. Ultimately, they hope to develop a tool that will facilitate a consistent flow of biodiversity data from strategic sites on CFR rivers. Data from a range of contributor types will be assembled into a reputable, full-featured, open-access database. They anticipate that the system would provide an engaging, interactive user experience and robust, informative outputs that can be interpreted by end users such as biodiversity managers.

Last Updated: March 5th, 2017

Project Director Biography

Dr. Helen Dallas has worked as a freshwater ecologist in southern Africa for 26 years. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town, and is a Research Associate of the University of Cape Town and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. As a founding Director of the Freshwater Research Centre, Dallas has been instrumental in growing the non-profit, which undertakes collaborative research in the region by linking with universities, NGOs, government organizations and consulting firms, to advance the understanding of freshwater systems while developing capacity through internship and post-graduate programs. Dallas has worked extensively in southern Africa and has been instrumental in the development of aquatic biomonitoring protocols in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. Her interest in the physico-chemical aspects of aquatic ecosystems directed her research into understanding biotic responses and vulnerability of aquatic organisms and ecosystems to global climate change. She is enthusiastic about the value of long-term data sets for freshwater ecosystems, especially in South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot. Such data sets are vital for detecting critical ecosystem changes (such as losing ecosystem services and unique biodiversity) and managing these systems accordingly.

Notes from JRS

Rivers sustain and inspire us and their flows and water quality often tell a story of upstream conservation, subtractions, dams, and pollution. Combine rivers with the amazing Cape Floristic Region and we see the potential for a vital data and information system to serve conservation and policy. When JRS makes a planning grant we tell our partners to truly focus on planning and if they create a rigorous plan, budgets, risk management plans, and partnerships, a fantastic grant proposal is an easy product. As we make this grant, we are particularly interested to see how the Freshwater Research Centre (FRC) will partner with governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations in an county with strong biodiversity information systems and several agencies with mandates relating to rivers and the CFR? How will the partnership motivate knowledge sharing and data mobilization? And how can a system be built that does not reinvent information structure but leverages the best of existing solutions? We hope that the solutions developed by FRC and their partners might be transferable to other African contexts.

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