On-line version ISSN 2071-0771
REBELO, Tony G.; FREITAG, Stefanie; CHENEY, Chad and MCGEOCH, Melodie A.. Prioritising species of special concern for monitoring in Table Mountain National Park: The challenge of a species-rich, threatened ecosystem. Koedoe [online]. 2011, vol.53, n.2, pp. 158-171. ISSN 2071-0771.
Conservation requires that species are monitored to ensure the persistence of species and ecosystem processes. In areas with large numbers of threatened species, this can be a major challenge. Here we explore prioritising species of special concern on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, conserved primarily in the Table Mountain National Park. With 307 terrestrial plant and animal species listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List (plus 208 as non-least concern) and 332 endemic to the Peninsula, it is impossible to monitor and manage all species with current resources. At a workshop of conservation managers and ecosystem and taxonomical specialists, 14 variables were incorporated into a simple scoring scheme to develop a priority listing of these species. Despite care to ensure that variables were independent, there was strong autocorrelation amongst biotic versus management variables. There was concern that biotic variables would be masked by management criteria, but this was not the case. We propose that monitoring should focus on as many top-scoring species as resources allow (including volunteers) and that setting a cut-off value for delimiting sensitive species should be eschewed. A major challenge is that many species are typical of lowland ecosystems, which are poorly represented in the national park. Although priority species for monitoring have been identified, this will need to be tempered with the monitoring costs and logistics of implementing the programme. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Owing to the large number of threatened and endemic species in the Cape Peninsula, it is impossible to monitor all species with current resources. Management must focus on ecosystem maintenance as species-focused management will inevitably result in conflict with other threatened species. Monitoring should focus on as many top-scoring species as resources allow. The costs and logistics of a monitoring programme still need to be worked out.