Every country in the world has already been touched by climate change. As one of the world’s most mega-diverse countries, South Africa is no exception.
Rainfall is already showing signs of decreasing in the west of the country, and increasing in the east. Scientists are expecting this to affect the tiny plants found in the Succulent Karoo in the Northern Cape province in the West, and the Cape Floristic Region in the Western Cape, which is the most compactly rich flowering plant kingdom on the planet.
One of the hallmarks of fynbos, as the plants of the Cape Floristic Region are also called, is the fact that a single species is often only found on a few square kilometres of land and nowhere else.
This includes, for example, the snow protea that occurs in only a few places in the Cederberg mountains, and is now one of the world’s rarest plants because of climate change and habitat disturbance. It depends on the snow as a cue to flower, but the snowbelt is receding every year.
The fact that South Africa has many game reserves along a west-east axis is helpful for biodiversity protection, because many species are moving southwards and eastwards.
The spectacular quiver tree is a good example of such a species. Its numbers are decreasing in the northern areas of the country, but they are thriving much further south and east than their previous range.
Things you could do as a caring traveller include making your trip carbon neutral through the non-profit organisation Food and Trees for Africa, or contributing money to saving species. The Kew Gardens in England, for example, is raising money to preserve seed of the snow protea.
What you don’t do also makes a difference. Every plant left undisturbed, for example, contributes to survival of its species.
And finally, subscribe to the 'Travel Slow' philosophy. Rather than travelling far and wide, consider basing yourself in one place and exploring your surroundings thoroughly, preferably on foot or by bicycle. You’ll leave with deeper memories, a smaller carbon footprint, and a great aftertaste of locally grown food.