SA’s ‘Life in stone’ could be a thorn in the side for frackers

Another World First for SAHRA

Submitted by The Heritage Portal on Tue, 12/11/2013 – 19:02

The South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) has just released some very exciting news… they have pioneered the world’s first online palaeontological sensitivity map. The breakthrough will save developers tens of millions of rands in the coming years and become a priceless research tool. Proactive preservation at its best! Read the full story here

“The fossil sensitivity map is an important step forward in the proactive management of palaeontological and geological heritage resources. The map will guide and assist developers, heritage officers and practitioners in screening palaeontologically sensitive areas at the earliest stages of the development cycle.

PalaeoTechnical Reports

The successful development of the sensitivity map owes itself to a number of initiatives and partners. Since 2008, SAHRA, Heritage Western Cape and Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal have commissioned palaeotechnical reports from expert palaeontologists such as Dr John Almond, Dr John Pether and Dr Gideon Groenewald. These reports have been used by heritage officers across the country to assess the impacts on fossils by developments. However, this process has been extremely cumbersome and time consuming as the fossil bearing formations were not georeferenced so that footprints of applications could be overlaid systematically against the sensitive geological formations. This information was also not readily accessible by members of the public unless they explicitly requested copies of the palaeotechnical reports.

Council for GeoScience & SAHRIS

The successful development of SAHRIS in 2012 opened up a range of possibilities to automate access to and dissemination of the valuable information contained in the palaeotechnical reports. Furthermore, a number of provinces had only been partially assessed (or not at all). The extraction of the technical information onto a Geographical Information System (GIS) provided a means to eliminate gaps in the sensitivity maps where geological formations overlapped provincial boundaries.
SAHRA approached the Council for GeoScience (CGS) in order to access to their 1:250 000 geological shapefile data. The CGS were happy to collaborate and on 19 September 2013, SAHRA and the CGS signed a license agreement for the use of their data. Over the last few months, SAHRA’s palaeontogical heritage officer, Ms Jenna Lavin, has combined the Palaeotechnical Report information with the shapefile data on SAHRIS and has developed a Fossil Sensitivity Map for South Africa.

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