Change the world


Mandy Lombard

Professor Amanda Lombard

Primary discipline: Biological Sciences

Faculty: Science

Biosketch of Chair incumbent

Professor Lombard was awarded the Purcell Memorial Prize for the best zoological Ph.D. at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1989. After post-doctoral work in the USA and Australia, she held academic positions at UCT, NMMU, and the University of Pretoria. She specialises in conservation planning, and has also worked as a consultant in this field for 18 years.

Her early work advanced conservation planning research in South Africa and was instrumental in establishing it as a necessary step in policies to expand and proclaim both terrestrial and marine protected areas. In 2004 she pioneered South Africa’s marine conservation planning research and assessments. She is frequently invited to international workshops to advance conservation planning globally, and has supervised many post-graduate students, published 47 peer-reviewed scientific papers, 1 book chapter, and 43 consultancy reports. In 2013, Thomson Reuters listed her as one of the 6 most cited ecologists in South Africa. She has an NRF C1 rating for her research and an H-index of 25.

She is an editor of the Journal Conservation Letters and a board member of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology. She has a special interest in animal welfare and ethics and sits on national and international ethics committees.


Relevance of research

In 2014 Operation Phakisa was launched to “unlock the economic potential of South Africa’s Oceans”. Phakisa identified MSP as a key initiative to support marine protection, and to provide a legislative framework to promote the rational use of the ocean, while not compromising its ecosystem-based services. Prof. Lombard’s work is directly relevant because it focuses on marine conservation assessments and plans, and she conducts applied research that can be implemented for effective conservation outcomes. For example, she led South Africa’s first marine National Biodiversity Assessment and she designed the Prince Edward Islands Marine Protected Area in the Southern Ocean. She also acts as a conservation planning advisor to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Current research interests

MSP has emerged internationally as the recommended approach to implementing integrated management of coastal and ocean areas, and is linked to ecosystem-based management and the ecosystem approach to fisheries. However, there is no MSP capacity in research, teaching or policy development in South Africa and Professor Lombard’s research aims to address these gaps. Her research focuses on five themes:

  • Strategic strengthening and analysis of knowledge on the spatial and seasonal distribution of marine biodiversity features in coastal, benthic and pelagic environments
  • Evaluation of ecosystem services (ecological infrastructure) and development of accounting techniques for the marine environment
  • Sourcing and collating available baseline biodiversity information to evaluate marine management strategies
  • Development of predictive spatial models of the outcomes of environmental, and anthropogenic, drivers of change in the marine environment
  • Use of outputs from themes 1 to 4 in a MSP framework to inform policy and management
  • Her research is highly collaborative and she works closely with South African colleagues (particularly Drs Kerry Sink, Jean Harris, Sven Kerwath, Linda Harris, Stephen Holness, Prof. Colin Attwood) as well as many international collaborators.


2018 - 2019

Era of marine spatial planning

In 2014, the government launched Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy, to unlock the economic potential of the oceans bordering its shores, based on the principles of sustainable development. One of the key tools available to promote sustainable practices in the ocean is marine spatial planning.

Professor Mandy Lombard, who holds the SARChI Chair in Marine Spatial Planning at Nelson Mandela University, explains, “Marine spatial planning is all about how to sustainably use marine resources and manage our oceans. Through the Chair we undertake research that informs ecosystem-based marine spatial planning in South Africa. We partner with other universities, local and national user groups and authorities, NGOs and industry, and work with ecologists, economists, social scientists, governance and legal specialists, and civil society.” Situated in the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research (CMR) at the Ocean Sciences Campus, the Chair collaborates in coordinated, transdisciplinary, evidence-based research with members from seven faculties.

Prof Lombard’s Chair currently includes two master’s students, nine doctoral candidates and three postdoctoral research fellows working on a wide range of topics.“An example is our partnership with the Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT) at our joint research station in Plettenberg Bay, where Dr Gwen Penry and doctoral candidate Minke Tolsma are investigating the sustainability of the boat-based whale-watching industry. Then we have Dr Kelly Ortega working on climate models for fisheries, and Dr Jai Clifford-Holmes is working with doctoral candidate Estee Vermeulen to develop system dynamics models for the Bay to assist with marine spatial planning decision-making and scenario-planning.”

Faculty of Law doctoral candidate Rachael Chasakara is researching the Marine Spatial Planning Act to investigate potential conflicts between the Act, human rights and the South African constitution. Prof Lombard is co-supervising Chasakara with Professor Patrick Vrancken who holds the SARChI Chair in the Law of the Sea and Development in Africa. “As we develop the ocean economy it is going to be increasingly crucial that the Marine Spatial Planning Act is applied without compromising the environment,” says Prof Lombard. “The ecosystem services that the oceans deliver are essential for our survival.”

Despite a clear understanding of their dependency on the oceans’ provisions, humans continue to impact marine systems in potentially irreversible ways. An estimated 70% of fish populations are either fully or over-exploited and altered food webs, together with ocean warming, are reducing food security and increasing the frequency of toxic algal blooms. Habitat destruction, pollution, ocean acidification, ocean warming … the list goes on.

The big move required

“Unfortunately, South Africa’s national policies tend to be fragmented and sector-specific and include decision-support tools that address only components of marine systems,” says Prof Lombard. “For example: fisheries management tools focus on living resource extraction; integrated coastal management tools are implemented mainly along coasts; and marine protected areas and marine spatial planning are both area-based management tools. These tools are all represented in South Africa’s legislative toolbox, the most recent addition being the Marine Spatial Planning Act, and our 20 new marine protected areas.”

We need to act now, warns Prof Lombard, and the big move required is towards integrated ocean management.

Gains for all South Africans?

Operation Phakisa is the enabling policy for these recent developments; but is Phakisa’s agenda, based on economic growth, in line with sustainable development goals? Will it really address poverty, or is it just the “business as usual” model of short-term gains for the few (catch all the real and proverbial fish now), rather than long-term gains for all South Africans (“infinity” fish)? Hopefully the latter, but what is required to move South Africa’s ocean policies into a safe operating space? Do we need more research, and if so, what questions should we be asking, and what relationships should we be building, and with whom? The SARChI Chair in Marine Spatial planning is addressing these questions in South Africa’s crucial ocean waters.