Bigger Cape World Heritage Site is on cards

20 May 2015

The Afromontane forests of the Southern Cape, most of them part of the Garden Route National Park, are up for a listing on the World Heritage List. The list is compiled by Unesco, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature received a nomination in March 2014 to double the existing World Heritage site. The current site is 557 584 hectares and includes Table Mountain National Park, Agulhas complex, Langeberg complex and the Garden Route complex.

If approved, the extended site will include the Wilderness area, state forests and mountain catchment areas which form a chunk of the Garden Route National Park, an open access reserve spanning more than 155 000 hectares from Wilderness to Tsitsikamma.

According to Jill Bunding-Venter, the park’s general manager, at least 119 recognised fynbos vegetation types will be added to the existing site of both endemic and/or threatened fynbos species.

Green Flag trails

Meanwhile, two hiking trails in the Knysna forest, which is also part of the Garden Route National Park, have received Green Flag status. Perdekop, a 9.5km nature walk, and Olifants, in Diepwalle, hiking trails were accredited by the Hiking Organisation of Southern Africa earlier this month.

The Green Flag a global benchmark for hiking trails and criteria include conservation status, health and safety measures, cleanliness and maintenance, sustainability, management and others.

This comes a few days before the world marks International Day for Biological Diversity, or International Biodiversity Day, celebrated each year on 22 May. It was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2000 to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

According to the UN, this year’s theme, Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, reflects the importance of efforts made at all levels to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the UN’s Post-2015 Development Agenda for the period of 2015-2030, and the relevance of biodiversity for the achievement of sustainable development.

Biodiversity can refer to genetic variation, species variation, or ecosystem variation within an area. The Cape Floral Kingdom is one of six globally recognised plant kingdoms. It is the smallest of all six kingdoms and is rich in biodiversity with 8 700 plant species and high endemism: 68% of its plant species are confined to this kingdom that is just 90 000km2 in size.

The kingdom consists of the five biomes, namely: fynbos, renosterveld, succulent karoo, sub-tropical thicket and afromontane forest. Fynbos is the dominant vegetation, and 80% of the kingdom consists of fynbos.

The megadiverse countries are a group of countries that harbour the majority of Earth’s species and are considered extremely biodiverse. Conservation International identified 17 megadiverse countries in 1998. All are located in, or partially in, tropical or subtropical regions. South Africa is ranked third after Brazil and Indonesia in terms of plant diversity.

SAinfo reporter