Has strategic planning made a difference to amphibian conservation research in South Africa?
Du Preez, Louis
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Background: Conservation relies on the strategic use of resources because monies for conservation action are limited, especially in developing countries. South Africa’s Frog Atlas project established a baseline for the country’s amphibian data and threat levels in 2004, and in 2009 a prioritisation exercise developed a strategy for conservation research. Objectives: In this article, we assess this strategy for conservation research. Method: We conducted a quantitative and qualitative assessment of research undertaken since the strategy was developed. Results: The strategy has produced a lasting impact on taxonomy, ecological studies, monitoring and capacity building. Publications in all areas have increased, but particularly in conservation ecology. Other indicators are increases in the numbers of locality records for target taxa, species descriptions and postgraduate degrees with amphibians as the principal topic. We document important milestones for South African amphibian conservation, including the first Biodiversity Management Plan for Species (BMP-S) for Hyperolius pickersgilli, a smart device app that uploads locality data to an open access database, 15 years of monitoring data and new amphibian identification books for adults and children. The Red List Index calculated for South African amphibians shows that the country’s species are becoming more threatened (a 1% reduction in 10 years), but a hindcasting exercise suggests that most of the damage was already done by 1990. We provide a checklist for 131 amphibian species in South Africa, of which 82 species are endemic. Conclusion: A strategy for conservation research was found to greatly augment the focus of research on South African frogs. A new strategy should focus on fewer taxa over meaningful time spans