Plant conservation in South Africa
Did you know?
The nearest rival in terms of plant biodiversity to the Cape Floral Kingdom is the South American rain forest.
In terms of natural capital, South Africa is one of the top 10 richest countries in the world. It has an exceptionally high number of mammal, bird, reptile and fish species.
But those involved with plant conservation in South Africa will rightly argue that it is the sheer wealth of plants that truly sets South Africa apart as a mega-diverse nation. Here you will find around 23 000 plant species, 7.5% of the world's total.
South Africa's conservation of ecosystems focuses on regions with the most concentrated splendour. Top of the list are fynbos (also known as the Cape Floristic Region or Kingdom) and the Succulent Karoo. The vast majority of these plants are found nowhere else in the world.
But because these are such specialised plants, very high numbers of them are threatened.
The other plant biomes are savanna, grassland, forest, Nama Karoo and true desert. Many biologists now also identify subtropical thicket in the Eastern Cape as a unique form of woodland or savanna.
As with animal species, plant conservation in South Africa benefits from natural corridors linking protected areas. Several noble initiatives co-ordinate work on the more threatened ecosystems.
They are the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP), the Subtropical Thicket Ecosystem Programme (STEP), the Cape Action for People and the Environment (CAPE), and the Grasslands Programme.
These are notable for the fact that government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector work closely together to safeguard ecosystems.
The same dynamic applies to the Working for Water programme. Here previously unemployed people are hired to remove alien invasive plants that threaten water sources and plant ecosystems.
South African conservation of plants is boosted by a strong grouping of national botanical gardens that help protect the biomes around them. They create awareness, propagate indigenous plants and fund research into the various ecosystems.