Biodiversity and its pattern and associated processes shape the ecological systems around us. Intact ecosystems provide a range of ecosystem services to people and other elements of the environment and buffer the socio-ecological system from global change and stochastic catastrophic events. Effective understanding and management of biodiversity and ecosystems is critical for ensuring the continued supply of these services and enhancing the resilience of both the environment and vulnerable communities. 

The Ecosystems thematic area works with government agencies, landowners and businesses to provide evidence and evidence based tools for understanding and managing ecosystems in a way that builds resilience, contributes to poverty reduction and facilitates sustainable green growth. We work in a number of strategic focus areas:

  • Biodiversity and ecosystem services – The biodiversity and ecosystem services focus area explores linkages between biodiversity and ecosystem services, and assesses how global change affects ecosystems, their services and human well-being. The INR has extensive experience in a range of tools and methodologies relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services including:
    • Mapping of supply and demand for ecosystem services
    • Systematic conservation planning,
    • Ecological assessments and social surveys.
  • Water resources – In our water scarce country, there is an urgent need to improve the way that society interacts with water. The INR has broad experience working into water resources, including:
    • Water resources and catchment management
    • Aquatic ecology and river health
    • Wetland delineation and functional assessments
    • Utilization of water resources by society.
  • Environmental information systems – Increasingly, information systems support the work of organisations involved in environmental management and research, and there is a growing need to generate and store data which can be used to produce better and more accurate information.

The INR has an excellent record in the use and development of environmental information systems and in using particularly spatial information to generate tools for use in the environmental sector.

  • Geographic information systems,
    • Mapping
    • Geo-referencing
    • Spatial analysis
  • Web mapping applications
  • Decision support systems
  • Database and geo-database development


  • Aquatic and terrestrial ecological assessments
  • Assessing linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem services and livelihoods
  • Identifying critical ecosystem service areas requiring protection and/or restoration
  • Mapping the distribution and flow of ecosystem services
  • Determining the response of ecosystems and their provision of services to environmental change
  • Incorporating ecosystem services into planning tools and monitoring programs.
  • Incorporating ecosystem services science into policy and planning processes

Current Projects

The Institute is currently involved in various projects across the country. Please view list below for more information regarding our projects.

Water Quality Costing Framework

The Institute of Natural Resources (INR) received funding from the Water Research Commission to develop a framework to identify cost categories related to deteriorating water quality.

Monitoring South Africa’s “Water Towers”: The state of the Southern Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area

The Institute of Natural Resources (INR) has received funding from the Nedbank Green Trust to develop a monitoring and reporting framework comprising a range of key indicators to understand, monitor and report on the state of the Southern Drakensberg SWSA and to develop an internet dashboard able to share and exchange information regarding the health of our SWSA’s.

A Rapid Assessment of Water Security in the Greater uMngeni River Basin

This project is a very brief assessment of water security and water insecurity in the Greater uMngeni River Basin – the main issues; the causes and consequences of these issues, and some suggestions on how we might address the various issues to prevent crises from developing.

Recent Projects

The Institute has been involved in various projects across the southern Africa. Please view list below for more information regarding our projects.

A Procedure to Develop and Monitor Wetland Resource Quality Objectives

There is a clear challenge with respect to the link between development and sustainable wetland management. The challenge is to maintain and reinstate the functions of South Africa’s wetlands in order to ensure that the per capita ecosystem service levels provided by wetlands keep pace with a developing population and its growing demands on the resource base. This can only be achieved by giving effect to the National Water Act (No. 36 of 1998) (NWA) in co-operation with other relevant authorities and stakeholders.


Environmental Water Requirements of the Senqu River: Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase ll

The Institute of Natural Resources (NPC) has been contracted by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) to undertake a baseline study and environmental water requirements assessment of the Senqu River, down-stream of the planned Polihali Dam on the Senqu River in the Lesotho Highlands.

An Assessment for Improved Water Management of the Upper Imatong Mountain Watershed, South Sudan

This short project aims to identify major impacts to hydrological systems in the Upper Kinyeti River watershed brought about through land use changes in the catchment, and then identify vulnerabilities associated with these impacts and climate change.

Guidelines for the Determination of Buffer Zones for Rivers, Wetlands and Estuaries

All outputs and resources for this project are available at the Buffer Zone Information Hub

Prioritising Ecological Infrastructure to Maintain Livelihoods and the Polihali Dam in Lesotho

The Land degradation is a major issue in Lesotho and has implications for both livelihoods and government. Currently, ecosystem services are being lost through poor management practices and many of the dams in Lesotho are subjected to increased siltation resulting in reduced water quality and quantity and decreased revenue for government. In addition, increased soil erosion has detrimental effects on cropping and grazing rendering local communities more vulnerable to environmental change.

The Role of the Chyulu Hills in the Delivery of Ecosystem Services in South-Eastern Kenya

The Chyulu Hills are an iconic landscape located in the world-famous Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem in south Eastern Kenya. These hills provide a variety of ecosystem services which underpin the livelihoods of local and regional communities.

Close Menu