Contextual significance

What would be considered contextual significance?

The following factors may contribute to the contextual significance of biodiversity

  • Critical Biodiversity Area (CBA) maps.
  • Threatened ecosystem status (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable) linked to national or provincial biodiversity thresholds.
  • Maps of Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (FEPAs).
  • Areas with plant and animal species of special concern.
  • The National Biodiversity Assessment 2011.

All these maps and plans can be downloaded from the SANBI Biodiversity GIS website at

In most of these circumstances, loss of habitat at the site-level would either compromise the achievement of biodiversity targets or negatively impact on ecological processes that function at a broader landscape or even biome-wide scale.

Critical Biodiversity Areas maps

Critical Biodiversity Area maps are one of the building blocks that underpin Bioregional Plans that are formally gazetted in terms of Chapter 3 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004.

Some of the biodiversity features depicted in CBA maps include:

  • Protected Areas.
  • Critical Biodiversity Areas.
  • Ecological Support Areas (ESA).
  • Other Natural Vegetation.

Please note that some maps may have variations or sub-divisions for these features.

Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (FEPA)?

Maps produced for South Africa’s National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas (NFEPA) project depict areas that have been prioritised for conserving freshwater eocosystems and supporting sustainable use of water resources.


As with CBA maps, FEPA maps promote an ecosystem perspective in environmental assessment, in that they introduce a broader scale to impact identification than is often the case with site or property-specific impact assessment. These maps emphasise the functional attributes of biodiversity by providing spatial or geographic surrogates for ecological processes that may otherwise not be readily evident if an assessment were limited to a particular site or property.


For more information of FEPA's, consult the BGIS website.


Go to pre-application biodiversity screening for guidance on how to factor biodiversity considerations into pro-active and risk-averse planning processes.