CoastWise - Improving knowledge for integrated management of the land-sea interface in South Africa


Partner Institutions

  • South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
  • Institute for Coastal and Marine Research (CMR) of Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
  • Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa (DEA)
  • Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht (HZG)

South Africa

Project duration
June 2019 to June 2021

project summary

In South Africa, as in many other countries, terrestrial and marine planning have traditionally been separate exercises. Although there is growing understanding that planning must take account of both land and the sea, the multiple and diverse land-sea interactions are still poorly understood by researchers as well as stakeholder communities and decision-makers. Only an integrated approach can properly reflect the connectivity and diversity of the coastal and marine environment and the many connections humans have with coasts and oceans.

The CoastWise project brings together five complementary partner institutions to improve the integrated assessment of South Africa’s land-sea interface. Its aim is to enhance the available knowledge base for informed decision-making, filling important knowledge gaps, translating this knowledge into formats that can be used in spatial management, and building capacity in South Africa and the region.

CoastWise generates new data and knowledge on coastal ecosystems such as rocky shores and estuaries. It uses new and innovative technology such as high-resolution remote sensing, drones and visual surveys, but also includes social science components to identify socio-cultural knowledge and values. Scientific results are translated into new spatial layers that can be fed into GIS-based databases and maps where they can be used in decision-making.

A key objective of CoastWise is to raise awareness of the value of coastal and marine habitats among coastal communities and decision makers. Innovative digital communication tools (e.g. video briefs for ministers and expert YouTube clips for decision-makers) are combined with more classic policy briefs and direct interaction with governmental working groups. Other key beneficiaries include coastal and marine stakeholders, local communities, policy-makers, as well as scientists and students.

Improve the integrated assessment of South Africa’s land-sea interface to enhance the knowledge base for informed decision-making


Advances in ecosystem classification, mapping and assessment across the land-sea interface

Development and pilot testing of new methodologies for integrated coastal ecosystem assessment, mapping and valuation

Development of digital solutions for the dissemination of new ecosystem data layers and ecosystem knowledge

Improved framework conditions for decision-making through enhanced and accessible knowledge

Capacity building with regards to innovative mapping and assessment techniques in South Africa and the region

areas of work

Improving integrated coastal assessment

  • Write an integrated coastal assessment report
  • Workshop and plan for “doing it better next National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA)”

Increasing the knowledge base for coastal assessment and management

  • Drone technology to improve mapping of coastal habitats
  • Remote sensing technology to understand sediment dynamics and fluvial flows
  • Machine learning algorithms to automatically annotate images from benthic surveys
  • Apply the critical biodiversity area (CBA) approach
  • Innovative coastal ecological infrastructure (EI) assessment and mapping
  • Assessing the socio-cultural values associated with coastal ecosystems

Increasing capacities for coastal assessment and management

  • Enable the completion of M.Sc. degrees and M.Sc. theses
  • Contribute to PhD level study
  • Engage in regional dialogue and networking to share project lessons
  • Organise and contribute to conferences (sessions) and workshops to showcase project results
  • Identify further opportunities to improve and embed coastal management

Enhancing coastal literacy of communities and decision-makers

  • Video brief for ministers with 360° camera
  • Short YouTube clips of experts to convey key messages of project to e.g. local municipalities
  • Factsheets as a quick knowledge transfer tool
  • Briefs for government working groups
  • New social spatial layers to include in OCIMS
  • Increased coastal literacy of national and regional communities, practitioners and decision-makers


The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is the South African biodiversity science authority. It generates information and knowledge, builds capacity, provides policy advice, and leads the classification, mapping and assessment of ecosystem types at a national scale.

The Institute for Coastal and Marine Research (CMR) of the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) conducts cutting-edge research to advance the understanding of the coastal and marine environment. The CMR has a long history of coastal and marine research engagement and multi-disciplinary work.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) provides evidence-based policy advice. The Coastal Systems Research Group plays a leading role in supporting South Africa's government with science-based governance, policy and management solutions in the coastal space.

Founded 1991, the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) provides a scientific basis for the protection and sustainable use of tropical coastal ecosystems. ZMT scientists conduct research in cooperation with stakeholders from science, politics, economy, NGOs and civil society.

The Division Human Dimensions of Coastal Areas (KSO) of the Institute of Coastal Research is the social sciences department of Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG). Key areas of work include integrated coastal and marine planning and perceptions of coastal and marine change.