The Western Cape Province has more Critically Endangered ecosystems than any other province in the country, according to the recent National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). This emerged at the 2012 Biodiversity Review held in Cape Town on the 8th and 9th of November 2012 when CapeNature delivered the 2012 State of Biodiversity (SoB) report.
The SoB programme was first initiated in 1999 to assess and monitor the state of biodiversity in the Western Cape. This programme delivered its first report in 2002 and these reports are updated every five years. CapeNature's latest five-year report confirms that the province's biodiversity is increasingly pressured by: unsustainable land-use and development, over-exploitation, the illegal collection of plants and animals for trade, global climate change and invasive alien species. These are the factors that make it necessary for the people of the Western Cape to assist CapeNature in conserving the unique biodiversity of this beautiful province.
The report provides summary statistics and lists for the province on the numbers of different species that occur, the numbers of species endemic to the province, numbers of species in each of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat categories, threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and the extent of Protected Areas and the degree of protection conferred.
The report also discusses current and recommended conservation initiatives and actions to address these threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Mr Anton Bredell said “Our province makes up 11% of the land surface of South Africa. Therefore it’s crucial to get conservation right.”
CapeNature’s latest five-year report confirms the province’s biodiversity is losing ground to, among other things, unsustainable land-use and development, over-exploitation, the illegal collection of plants and animals for trade, global climate change and the invasive alien species.
“We rely on biodiversity and CapeNature’s role as a custodian in the province for a steady yield of good quality water from our mountain catchments, clean air and healthy ecosystem services rendered by estuaries and wetlands. When this space is impacted on, for example, development, farming, fires, alien vegetation or animals, it could spell the end of the existence of these species,” Bredell said.
Dr Andrew Turner, scientific manager at CapeNature said the changes to biodiversity were complicated. Fynbos remains threatened and efforts are under way to expand the knowledge of the biome which is unique in the world. "There are very special vegetation containing large numbers of threatened species and it is quite a challenge trying to conserve all of these tiny bits of land that are scattered all over," said Turner. He emphasized that fynbos is particularly threatened by unchecked development in sensitive areas.
"There are definitely various parts of fynbos that are still threatened. There are 163 different fynbos vegetation types and many of these are threatened. It's the vegetation types that occur in the low lying areas that are more suitable for agriculture and other types of human activities that have been transformed in the past and we're now left with little bits here and there."
More detailed techniques have yielded a better understanding of fynbos species, particularly as the environment has caused enough differentiation so that plants and animals have evolved into new and specialised species.
Turner argued that information about sensitive areas for biodiversity should be included in detailed land use planning so that development did not have a negative impact on endangered species.
"What we try and do is to incorporate this information about where the remaining biodiversity is into conservation planning so that when people are putting up new developments, they do it in areas where it's not going to affect the continued survival of these species."
The Western Cape State of Biodiversity Report is available athttp://www.capenature.co.za/news.htm?sm[p1][action]=content&sm[p1][cntid]=2218&sm[p1][persistent]=1
For more information go to www.capenature.co.za