Researchers say scientists and managers must work together to avoid invasive species crippling South Africa’s economy
In this book chapter, the authors suggested ways that researchers and managers can cooperate to control ‘invasive species’ in South Africa. ‘Invasive species’ are organisms that are introduced into a new area that they are not native to, and they often increase in numbers and cause harm to the native organisms, thereby disrupting the local natural ecosystem. If not controlled, invasive organisms can cripple a country’s economy.
In South Africa, there are many invasive organisms and their management requires sound scientific advice, and knowledge-sharing between managers and scientists.
The authors said positive relations between scientists and managers do exist, but better cooperation could improve how invasive organisms are managed.
They reported that South Africa had universities, science councils, researchers and managers who were trained in science; and that allowed for knowledge sharing.
They said many South Africa’s scientists in this field knew each other and shared similar goals. Scientists and managers in South Africa often met, for example, in conferences, to share ideas. Scientists could therefore learn from the managers’ experiences.
Despite these positives, other factors influenced how policy-makers used research information. Sometimes information sharing was not easy because people work for different institutions. The authors therefore said that both researchers and managers needed to agree on how they would set their goals and monitor progress.
The authors reported weaknesses in South Africa’s approach to control invasive organisms. They mentioned unclear goals, lack of medium-term plans and unreliable funding. They also said outcomes are not monitored. They said that research results did not reach managers on time, and that managers could not always implement recommendations because of work environments.
They emphasised that scientists should be more concerned about loss of biodiversity if invasive organisms were not managed.
They further recommended that research findings into how to manage invasive organisms should also reach politicians and other senior officials.
Inreacsing resources are being allocated both to the management and research of biological invasions in South Africa. However, as with many natural resource management and conservation programmes globally, the question remains as to what extent the science provides the necessary answers for management, and whether it influences decision-making. This frequently presents as a gap between knowledge generation and application of research outcomes (‘knowing-doing gap’). The ideal scenario, a two-way transfer of knowledge along a continuum between science and management (‘knowing-doing continuum’), would allow for dialogue between all role-players that will not only transfer research results in support of management, but communicate management needs to scientists. This chapter explores how well this continuum has operated in South Africa with regard to biological invasions. Professionals employed in different positions along a continuum of basic or applied research to technology transfer and implementation are currently assessed with different performance measures. This drives different behaviours, which in turn can impede smooth integration. To counteract this, different types of communication structures have been developed, although many have not persisted. The most successful and enduring appear to be voluntary forums or conference series where researchers and managers are regularly exposed to each other’s challenges. Scientists who are embedded within management agencies (for example, Scientific Services units within national parks and provincial conservation agencies) appear to be well-placed to bridge the gaps that exist, but mechanisms to evolve into a true knowing-doing continuum still need to be sought for the South African context. To be more relevant, researchers need to draw on the experience of managers, better understand the context within which managers operate, and by which they are constrained, while policy-makers may have to become more willing to adapt approaches when research suggests that such changes would be warranted if certain goals are to be achieved.
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