, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 531-547

Extending the Namibian protected area network to safeguard hotspots of endemism and diversity

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Abstract

Namibia's state protected area network (PAN) covers 13.8% of the country's land area, but is seriously inadequate as a basis for effective biodiversity conservation. The early parks system was not designed with biological diversity in mind, and reflects instead a history of ideological, economic and veterinary considerations. Currently, parks in the Namib Desert biome make up 69% of the PAN, while savanna and woodland biomes are somewhat underrepresented (7.5 and 8.4% of their respective land areas), and the Karoo biome is badly underrepresented (1.6%). Four of 14 desert vegetation types are comprehensively protected, with 67 to 94% representation in the PAN, yet six savanna types have 0 to 2% representation by area. Mountain Savanna, a vegetation type unique to Namibia, is wholly unprotected. The status of two marine reserves, which in theory protect only 0.01% of Namibia's marine environment, needs clarification and augmentation with new reserves. Nearly 85% of Namibia's land is zoned for agriculture, so effective biodiversity protection means working outside the PAN to improve the sustainability and diversity of farming practices. Wildlife conservancies on commercial and communal farmlands show excellent potential to mitigate the ecological skew in the state PAN, with the ecological management of large areas being decentralized to rural communities in habitats otherwise neglected for conservation. Two important endemism zones, the Kaoko escarpment and coastal plain and the Sperrgebiet succulent steppe, plus the species-rich Caprivi area, offer three valuable opportunities for regional consolidation of protected areas into transboundary 'peace parks' or biosphere reserves.