Ecosystems

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 173–192

The Evolution of Conservation Management Philosophy: Science, Environmental Change and Social Adjustments in Kruger National Park

  • Freek J. Venter
  • Robert J. Naiman
  • Harry C. Biggs
  • Danie J. Pienaar
MINIREVIEW

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-007-9116-x

Cite this article as:
Venter, F.J., Naiman, R.J., Biggs, H.C. et al. Ecosystems (2008) 11: 173. doi:10.1007/s10021-007-9116-x

Abstract

In this ‘perspectives’ article, we share experiences gained from the century-old Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa to illustrate the dynamic complexity of biophysical and socio-political systems, the interactions that occur between them, and the consequences for ecosystem-scale functions and resources and for their management. As in KNP, the social-ecological milieu surrounding many national parks and protected areas is changing rapidly. There will be significant managerial adjustments as human populations grow and the needs for resources accelerate. The changes, driven largely by global-scale environmental shifts as well as by new knowledge, are intimately intertwined with evolving societal perceptions, values, and expectations. Many KNP resource-related issues of the past century originated more internally and were largely environmental, whereas the emerging issues are more external and largely social. Here, we illustrate how interrelated scientific and managerial advances in integrating biophysical and social systems are acting to conserve and rehabilitate resources within KNP, and to aid in their conservation. Where appropriate, we relate these advances to similar examples in the region or other protected areas in the world. Strategies to address emerging issues are identified and discussed—and their combined effects on resource conservation and management are evaluated. In our experience the approach to conservation within KNP has been successful, despite well-intended but damaging management actions in the past. We believe that the perceived success stems from a willingness to continually incorporate new knowledge into management, to foster close working and personal associations among scientists, managers, and rangers, to acquire an intimate knowledge and understanding of the social-ecological system by the administrators as well as by the staff, and to be actively ‘forward’ thinking in an increasingly complex and uncertain world. We accept that many decisions taken today will be challenged by future managers and scientists, and we expect that some will be found wanting as emerging knowledge and continued learning shape future decisions. Further, evolving political, social, and environmental contexts may mean that protected areas will need to be managed in different ways. Therefore, we emphasize the importance of minimizing the permanency and impact of decisions so that today’s actions do not compromise future decisions when meaningful changes need to be made.

Keywords

ecosystem managementenvironmental changeKruger National ParkriparianriversSouth Africasavanna

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Freek J. Venter
    • 1
  • Robert J. Naiman
    • 2
  • Harry C. Biggs
    • 3
  • Danie J. Pienaar
    • 3
  1. 1.Conservation ServicesKruger National ParkSkukuzaSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Aquatic & Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Scientific ServicesKruger National ParkSkukuzaSouth Africa