The Biodiversity Screening Tool was developed to enable decision-makers to avoid biodiversity priority areas when planning new plantation forestry projects in the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape was the focus because the province has unique and rich biodiversity, and had been identified by government as having significant potential for plantation forestry expansion as a means of rural development.
The tool was developed in direct response to a need expressed by the Department of Water Affairs and Department of Environmental Affairs in the province, in order to help clear bottlenecks in the authorization process for new plantation forestry development. It uses a combination of Excel and GIS to identify biodiversity priority areas, so that these can be avoided early on and plantation forestry efforts could be focused in areas where there would be no overlap.
The Biodiversity Screening Tool was completed in 2011 and has been used by forestry companies, environmental assessment practitioners, and relevant government authorities alike. SAPPI have adopted the tool and apply it to any potential plantation forestry area they investigate and the tool has successfully prevented afforestation on at least one important grassland site. The value of this tool is that it formalises and standardises the process of planning new plantations and is thus defensible with the government regulators that oversee land-use planning. There has been significant interest in applying the Biodiversity Screening Tool to other land uses in the Eastern Cape as well as adapting the tool for use in other provinces.
The Biodiversity Screening Tool was developed through the Grasslands Programme in partnership with AsgiSA-EC, a company that funds, promotes and supports rural development. For more information on the Biodiversity Screening Tool, contact Stephen Germishuizen at steve[at]aes.co.za