8 April 2005
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has launched South Africa’s first national spatial biodiversity assessment, allowing the country to identify the areas of its environment most urgently in need of protection.
Undertaken by the SA National Biodiversity Institute, the report presents results of and recommendations for South Africa’s terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine environments.
Launching the report in Cape Town on Wednesday, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the results were “a warning to us all”.
According to the report, 34% of SA’s terrestrial ecosystems are threatened, with 5% critically endangered; 82% of the country’s 120 rivers are threatened, with 44% critically endangered; three of SA’s 13 groups of estuarine biodiversity are in critical danger; and 12% of its marine bio-zones are under serious threat.
Van Schalkwyk said the report made specific recommendations on how best to link conservation with development in most-threatened areas, ensuring both sustainable conservation and community upliftment.
According to the report, South Africa is diverse not only in terms of its people and their cultures but also in its biological resources and ecology, with one of the world’s richest diversities of plants and animals.
The country’s biodiversity also provides an important basis for economic growth and development, the report states.
Preserving this biodiversity is also vital for providing sustainable “ecosystem services” such as clean air and water, carbon storage to counteract global warming, and prevention of erosion, the report finds.
Loss of biodiversity, the report argues, would place aspects of the country’s economy and quality of life at risk and reduce the socio-economic options of SA’s future generations.