Global scientists gather at Kruger Park to share research findings on protected areas
Durban – Scientists and researchers have gathered in the Kruger National Park (KNP) to share findings from research conducted in savannah national parks and protected areas from around the world.
The participants are taking part in the 18th annual Savanna Science Network Meeting, which started on Monday and runs until Thursday at the Nombolo Mdhluli Conference Centre in Skukuza.
According to organisers, the meeting will host about 193 delegates representing 88 different institutions from most continents.
The programme will explore about 119 presentations covering a wide range of topics and research conducted in all savanna and protected areas from around the globe.
“The science network meeting provides an opportunity for scientists to share their latest research findings conducted in national parks and other conservation areas within the savanna biome," said KZNP general manager for communications Isaac Phaahla.
"This includes numerous research projects from conservation areas mostly within South Africa (with Kruger National Park the best represented), but also drawing in relevant research and understanding from other savanna protected areas across the globe, including Australia, North America and Asia.”
Phaahla said the conference was also an important forum for dialogue and debate about ecological science and conservation matters, and a pivotal point for future research collaborations.
Topics to be covered during the sessions included:
* Ecological patterns e.g. animal space-use patterns, large-scale biodiversity patterns and understanding ecological processes (erosion, predation, plant recruitment, herbivory, fire, disease and decomposition)
* Better understanding of how humans interact with and affect their natural environment (ecosystem services, ecological effects of different land uses, conservation ideologies, wildlife/livestock interaction, anthropogenic threats to freshwater systems, climate change).
Phaahla said the meeting would also have some "fascinating sessions" where some of the newest technologies used in conservation science would be showcased (such as drone-based LiDAR surveys).
He said SANParks scientists engaged and collaborated with a wide range of scientists, research partners and funders from within South Africa and the world.
The close interactions between the academics and park authorities, facilitated by the meeting, were key to promoting pro-active, evidence-based decision-making and directing research into priority conservation management needs.
"The meeting has always valued capacity-building and as such students share the platform with world-renowned savannah scientists from across the globe," he said.