Biodiversity describes the variety of life in an area, including:
- the number of different species
- the genetic wealth within each species
- the interrelationships between them
- the natural areas where they occur.
These benefits of biodiversity are often referred to as ecosystem goods and services. These services are categorised:
- Provision – biodiversity provides all living organisms with water, food, fuel, medicine and fibres.
- Regulation – biodiversity and its life-support systems regulate climate, water and the spread of disease.
- Cultural – people need connection to nature. There are numerous spiritual, aesthetic, recreational and learning benefits.
- Supporting life systems – production, soil formation and nutrient cycles.
And biodiversity is also directly related to the quality of life you may expect.
The loss of biodiversity has lead to economic gains in some cases, but increasingly people are seeing that there are material costs that were not considered. The Green Jobs report, South Africa’s Green Fund and exploration of financing schemes for the payment of ecosystem services (PES) are important developments.
Incentives provided for the conserving of biodiversity set an economic value on this preservation. Areas served by this will include soil erosion prevention, landscape beauty, water flows, carbon sequestration and storage, and biodiversity protection generally. There is great job creation potential here (as evidenced in initiatives like government’s Working for Water programme), and the aligning of conservation efforts to national development goals should be encouraged.
Source: an excerpt from the opening page at (now defunct) www.stewardship.co.za
|Renosterveld, part of the fynbos biome. Green Trust/WWF SA media trip. Photo used courtesy of Helen Gordon, WWF SA|
Biodiversity is the basis of agriculture. Maintaining biodiversity is essential for the production of food, agricultural goods, and all the benefits that come with these – food security, nutrition and livelihoods. The “Natural resources” section of this publication is a recognition that while agriculture contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the opposite is also possible: agriculture can be responsible for biodiversity loss.
The reader should note that there is information elsewhere in the book that could well have been in this section e.g. the information on best fertiliser practice (see “Fertiliser” chapter). Also, in order to mainstream them, several chapters like biocontrol, renewable energy and rainwater harvesting have been moved to the “Inputs” section.
Threats to biodiversity
The biologist EO Wilson developed the acronym HIPPO to sum up the threats to biodiversity.
Habitat destruction, disturbance and fragmentation
Habitat destruction and the changes to ecosystems is possibly the greatest cause of biodiversity loss.
Introduced and invasive species
Introduced species often become invasive when they breed and out-compete or eat the endemic species. Invaders impact on fauna and flora, but also on the soil, land and water resource. Invaders tend to resource-hungry and deplete the natural assets.
Since the industrial revolution, countries – mostly in the “industrialised west” – have been polluting for two centuries. Joined now by emerging economies such as India, China and South Africa, the pollution levels world-wide are soaring. Key focus areas to address pollution include water contamination by fertilisers, pathogens, acid-mine drainage; pesticides affecting plants, animals and the receiving environment; coal-fired electricity plants which produce high levels of air pollution and contaminate water; untreated sewage and effluent contaminating water systems, including rivers and groundwater; and landfill waste which grows exponentially with pollution and affluence.
Population growth is the main cause of pressure on the ecosystems and the degradation of the environment. The growth rate feeds the demand for natural resources, while the human settlements expand, encroaching on and transforming natural habitats.
From muti-plants to rhino horns, from forest trees to oceanic fish, we are living beyond our means. Society consumes the equivalent of what three planets would produce per year. Societies also do not consume equally. The richer nations far outstrip the poorer ones in terms of consumption. As a species, we have become predominantly urban and increasingly disconnected from nature. We are drawing on nature’s capital rather than living off its interest. Any economist would explain that bankruptcy is set to follow.
Wilson’s “HIPPO” summarises the key causes of destruction of the natural environment. Clearly evident is the common factor – our own excessive consumption of natural resources, and the massive footprint we leave on the earth.
Source: an excerpt from the home page at (now-defunct) www.stewardship.co.za
Payment for Ecosystem services (PES)
Even though biodiversity is the foundation of ecosystems and habitats (i.e. our natural environment), industrialised humanity has only just begun to take into account the connection between:
- biodiversity and quality of life; and
- biodiversity and it many economic benefits.
In addition its being undervalued, this contribution – particularly the economic contribution – is understudied. We need to know more these ecosystem services in order to make every provision for them to continue.
The reader interested in following this theme is referred to the following:
- The Ecosystem Marketplace is “a leading source of news, data, and analytics on markets and payments for ecosystem services (such as water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity)”. Visit www.ecosystemmarketplace.com.
- The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) www.ipbes.net
- The Green Fund – www.sagreenfund.org.za
- Find articles like “Markets and payments for environmental services” at www.iied.org, website of the International Institute for Environment and Development.
- Find out about Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. See www.un-redd.org.
- Read about the Restoring Natural Capital or RNC Alliance at www.rncalliance.org. The slogan is “Economics in which nature matters and ecology in which people matter”.
- Listen to the excellent talk at www.ted.com/talks – Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature! The website reads: “Think of Pavan Sukhdev as nature’s banker – assessing the value of the Earth’s assets. Eye-opening charts will make you think differently about the cost of air, water, trees … Pavan Sukhdev [shows] that green economies are an effective engine for creating jobs and creating wealth”.
Biodiversity and South Africa
South Africa’s biomes – see here.
South Africa has a wide range of climatic conditions and many variations in topography (e.g. narrow coastal plain, steep escarpment, large plateau). In combination, climate and topography give rise to broad vegetation zones which, together with their associated animal life, are called biomes. These are the Succulent Karoo, Desert, Nama-Karoo, Fynbos, Forest, Grassland, Savanna, Albany Thicket and Indian Ocean Coastal Belt biomes. Each of these supports its own collection of plant and animal species. The Karoo, for example, is home to plants and animals well suited to hot, dry conditions such as the gemsbok and succulent plants. The fynbos biome is home to a variety of plants that are suited to a mediterranean climate and the poor soils of the south Western Cape.
Bioregional programmes and agriculture
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) was established in 2004 under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, with special responsibility for biodiversity matters relating to the full diversity of South Africa’s fauna and flora. SANBI has been establishing bioregional and ecosystem programmes using a partnership approach to mainstream biodiversity in socio-economic development that includes agricultural role players.
The Cape Action for People and the Environment (CAPE) Programme works through a landscape-level approach to conservation and involves landowners and their representative bodies. In each of these areas, issues around biodiversity on agricultural land are dealt with by working with farmers to set aside valuable biodiversity on their land through entering into conservation stewardship agreements.
The Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP) is an overarching framework for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of the Succulent Karoo Hotspot (SKH). SKEP looks to conserve the SKH which is an area that has a wealth of unique biodiversity but has also been severely damaged by human activities such as mining, overgrazing and ostrich farming. Projects include creating a provincial nature reserve, developing land use management plans for overgrazed areas, working with landowners to sign stewardship agreements, developing best practice guidelines, and working with those in the South African mining, agriculture and tourism sectors to promote formal biodiversity conservation areas.
The Grasslands Programme seeks to identify and promote biodiversity-compatible land uses. Grazing of cattle, sheep and indigenous game species have been identified as the most compatible agricultural activities in the biome. Read more in the “Rangelands/veld” chapter.
Biodiversity Stewardship is an opportunity for farmers/land owners to gain conservation recognition for land under their ownership. Agricultural activities continue, but with improved environmental practices in place. The farmer, recognised as the custodian of the land, can draw on the support and advice of conservation experts.
There are four different Stewardship models:
- Conservation Area – there is no defined period of commitment here. It is seen as a more flexible arrangement. Conservancies are included in this category (see the conservancy chapter here).
- Protected Environments are legally recognised contracts. This is often an option for landowners in areas buffering nature reserves or where their combined territory envelopes a self-contained ecosystem.
- Biodiversity Agreement – a legal agreement between landowners and the conservation agency to conserve biodiversity in the medium term.
- Nature Reserve – long term legally recognised contracts to protect biodiversity.
More information can be obtained from your provincial nature conservation agency (see under heading 7) or one of the other role players listed in this chapter.
Business and biodiversity
Over the past few years, conservationists worldwide have identified the need to “mainstream” biodiversity by integrating biodiversity conservation into systems where the primary focus is on production. In South Africa this has meant a growing engagement between the business and conservation sectors and the development of some innovative models of “biodiversity-friendly” business, mostly in agriculture.
Industries where business and biodiversity initiatives have become well established are the wine, fishing, honey, indigenous cutflower, sugar, rooibos tea and potato industries, with emerging initiatives in others like red meat, citrus and ostrich. Initiatives in these industries fit in at various stages along the value chain, and involve market mechanisms such as those depicted below. The commitments are referred to as “voluntary” in the sense that they are not legislated requirements or regulatory mechanisms.
|voluntary producer commitments||eco-labelling / procurement advice||voluntary procurement commitments||consumer awareness campaigns|
The major players in these initiatives are:
- Conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in South Africa e.g. the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF SA) and the Landmark Foundation.
- South Africa’s government and donor-funded bioregional conservation programmes – CAPE, SKEP and the Grasslands Programme
- Industry role players from South African companies and multinationals represented in the country, as well as some of the major retailers
- Landowners and producer associations who want to practice sustainable farming and conserve biodiversity on their land.
The costs of these initiatives and the biodiversity conservation measures they involve, while in some cases partially funded by donors, are increasingly being covered by the premium prices these producers are able to charge for their products in niche markets, sometimes overseas. They have achieved this through marketing their products as biodiversity-friendly, participating in labelling and certification schemes or working through international trade organisations that accredit producers.
The GreenChoice Alliance is a national alliance that promotes sustainable production and harvesting in South Africa, by supporting the profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of environmentally sound products. Producer initiatives include activities in:
- wild flowers
- rooibos tea
- pecan nuts
- Livestock farming
National strategy and government contact
At present government runs several natural resource management programmes like Working for Water, Working for Wetlands, and LandCare. The New Growth Path, looking to create five-million new jobs by 2020, looks beyond these to the broader green economy where substantial opportunities exist for job creation, particularly in biodiversity, waste and natural resource management services.
A number of departments and agencies have responsibility for matters relating to biodiversity and agriculture, including the following:
- Department of Environmental Affairs www.environment.gov.za The National Biodiversity Economy Strategy is at the heart of promoting guardianship of wildlife within communities. Read more about this and other policies on the website.
- SANBI www.sanbi.org
- Department of Water & Sanitation www.dwa.gov.za
- Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) www.daff.gov.za
Provincial Government and Nature Conservation Bodies
|Province and provincial authority||Website|
|Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency||www.visiteasterncape.co.za|
|Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs & Tourism [website not working, 14 March 2018]||www.dedea.gov.za|
|Free State Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism & Environment Affairs||www.edtea.fs.gov.za|
|Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development||www.gauteng.gov.za|
|KZN Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs||www.kznedtea.gov.za|
|Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife||www.kznwildlife.com|
|Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism||www.ledet.gov.za|
|Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism||www.dedtmpumalanga.gov.za|
|Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency||www.mpumalanga.com|
|North West [Bokone Bophirima] Dept of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism (DEDECT)||www.nwpg.gov.za|
|Northern Cape Department of Environment & Nature Conservation||Tel: 053 807 7300|
|Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning||www.westerncape.gov.za/eadp|
|Cape Nature (Western Cape)||www.capenature.co.za|
- African Conservation Trust www.projectafrica.com
- Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) www.agulhasbiodiversity.co.za
- Biowatch www.biowatch.org.za
- Botanical Society of South Africa www.botanicalsociety.org.za
- Centre for Environmental Rights www.cer.org.za
- Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management www.cieem.net
- Conservation at Work www.conservationatwork.co.za
- Conservation South Africa http://southafrica.conservation.org
- Earthlife Africa www.earthlife.org.za
- Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) www.ewt.org.za
- Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa http://eapasa.org
- Environmental Law Association (ELA) www.elasa.co.za
- Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) www.emg.org.za
- Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) www.grassland.org.za
- Indigo Development & Change www.indigo-dc.org
- Landmark Foundation www.landmarkfoundation.org.za
- National Association of Conservancies and Stewardships of South Africa (NACSSA) www.nacsa.org.za
- Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust http://overbergrenosterveld.org.za
- South African Faith Communities Environment Institute www.safcei.org
- South African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Sciences www.saiees.org
- Southern African Society for Systematic Biology www.sassb.co.za
- Wilderness Foundation of Southern Africa www.wildernessfoundation.org.za
- Wildlands Conservation Trust www.wildlands.co.za
- Wildlife & Environment Society Of South Africa (WESSA) www.wessa.org.za
- WWF South Africa www.wwf.org.za
- Zoological Society of South Africa (ZSSA) www.zssa.co.za
ConsultantsFind environmental consultants in the “Environmental legislation” chapter.
School environmental programmes
- African Conservation Trust https://projectafrica.com
- Cape Leopard Trust http://capeleopard.org.za
- Cheetah Outreach www.cheetah.co.za
- Delta Environmental Centre www.deltaenviro.org.za
- Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) www.ewt.org.za
- Enviro Edu School Outings http://enviroedu.co.za
- Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) www.eeasa.org.za
- Intaka Island Environmental Education Centre www.intaka.co.za
- Landmark Foundation www.landmarkfoundation.org.za
- National Zoological Gardens Tel: 012 339 2700 www.nzg.ac.za
- SANBI Biodiversity Education and Empowerment Division www.sanbi.org
- SEED http://seed.org.za/schools-education/
- South African National Parks (SANParks) has various programmes for schools www.sanparks.org/conservation/people/education/default.php
- The University of the Western Cape (UWC)’s Nature Reserve has an environmental education programme for schools. Tel: 021 959 3274
- Wildlife and Environment Society SA Eco-schools National Co-ordinators Tel: 033 330 3931 www.wessa.org.za
WESSA is the implementing agent of the SADC Regional Environmental Education Project (SADC-REEP) and is affiliated to the international Foundation for Environmental Education
Research and training
Academy for Environmental Leadership (AEL) Tel: 082 441 6825 https://afel.co.za
African Land Use Training (ALUT)
Tel:078 228 0008 www.alut.co.za
African Snakebite Institute www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com
The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) undertakes a range of research activities with implications for biodiversity e.g. its Plant Protection Research campus is the custodian of the South African Rhizobium Culture Collection and the National Collections of Arachnids, Fungi, Insects and Nematodes. Visit www.arc.agric.za.
Cape Peninsular University of Technology (CPUT)
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
Natural Resources and the Environment
Delta Environmental Centre
Hope for unemployed people
Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute
Institute of Natural Resources – see University of KwaZulu-Natal
Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
Centre for African Conservation Ecology
Centre for Environmental Management
Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management
Tel: 018 299 2128
Find information about all environmental activities at www.ru.ac.za/environment/
South African Environmental Observation Network
South African Biodiversity Information Facility (SABIF)
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
Southern African Wildlife College
Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology
Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)
Department of Environmental, Water & Earth Sciences
University of Cape Town
Environmental and Geographical Science
Animal Demography Unit
University of the Free State
Centre for Environmental Management
University of KwaZulu-Natal
School of Agricultural, Earth & Environmental Sciences
Institute of Natural Resources
University of Limpopo
School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
University of Pretoria
Centre for Environmental Studies
Conservation Ecology Research Unit
University of South Africa (UNISA)
Department of Environmental Sciences
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Sciences
University of the Western Cape
Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Programme
Nature Reserve Unit www.uwc.ac.za
University of the Witwatersrand
School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences
Water Research Commission (WRC)
Biosystematic research contributes towards meeting the State’s obligation to the requirements of the International Convention on Biological Diversity in discovering, describing and documenting the biodiversity of South Africa.
Natural Science Collections. The Natural History Collections in South Africa are among the most important and comprehensive biological and taxonomic reference resources of their kind in Africa. The collections are a priceless indigenous biological resource to enable scientists to address South Africa’s need for information on pest control, conservation and the sustainable use of advantageous organisms.
The maintenance, safeguarding and development of natural science collections and associated biological reference resources are of strategic importance to natural resource management and biodiversity conservation in South Africa.
Several national surveys are undertaken in the country:
- Botanical survey
- Bird atlasing
- Retile atlasing
- Butterfly Survey
- South African National Survey of Arachnida
- South African Plant Parasitic Nematode Survey
- South African Alien Invasive Plant survey
SANBI, Natural Science Museums, Research Councils and universities undertake biosystematic research.
Parks and museums
Find a list of all South African parks at http://liveoncelivewild.com/
- Peace Parks Foundation www.peaceparks.org
- South African National Parks (SANParks) www.sanparks.org
- Some museums are involved with biodiversity programmes. Visit www.museumsonline.co.za for details.
Some international role players
- African Conservation Foundation – www.africanconservation.org
- Bioversity International – www.bioversityinternational.org
- The Cancun Declaration on Mainstreaming the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity for Well-Being (December 2016) was signed by countries committing to place greater emphasis on biodiversity through multiple actions. Find the document on www.cbd.int.
- Convention on Biological Diversity – www.cbd.int
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments designed to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Visit www.cites.org.
- Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund – www.cepf.net
- Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) – www.fao.org
- FutureEarth – www.futureearth.org
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility – www.gbif.org
- Global Youth in Biodiversity Network (GYBN) – https://gybn.org/
- International Rhino Foundation – www.rhinos.org
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – www.iucn.org
- Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment – www.scopenvironment.org
- Sustainable Development Conference – www.sdconference.org
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – www.unenvironment.org
- The Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth is part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security System Initiative. Find documents in the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth Series on the internet e.g. Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth: Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth and Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth.
- Women’s Environment & Development Organisation (WEDO) – www.wedo.org
Websites and publications
Visit the websites listed earlier in this chapter.
- Visit the UCT Animal Demography Unit’s Virtual Museum website at http://vmus.adu.org.za
- Take a look at the Biodiversity Explorer website, www.biodiversityexplorer.org.
- “Explore The Largest Natural World Encyclopaedia Online”, www.arkive.org
- For identifying plant, insects, birds etc: www.ispotnature.org
- Refer to www.greenmatter.co.za for news on careers, “green jobs” and skills
- Find out about the publication Enviroteach at www.enviroteach.co.za. [Problem with website, 14 March 2018]
- Identify and learn our indigenous and invasive trees at www.thetreeapp.co.za
- Find the Natural Resource Atlas on www.agis.agric.za. This atlas provides information on soil, terrain, geology, climate, vegetation and near-real time data of veld fires in South Africa.
- Species 360 – www.species360.org
- www.africageographic.com – Africa Geographic is South Africa’s “leading wildlife and environmental magazine”. Visit the associated website for additional information not found in the magazine and for online shopping for books, videos and other wildlife/environment essentials.
- www.plantzafrica.com – A site describing plants, vegetation types and the uses of South Africa plant species.
- Read about bats at www.batcon.org, website of Bat Conservation International.
- The printed copy or the electronic version of Enviropaedia, www.enviropaedia.com, contains an encyclopaedia, a database of environmental and other organisations involved in sustainable development and more.
- Find the many books available from Briza Publications – www.briza.co.za
- Share-Net is a South African based informal networking project that supports environmental education and development in the SADC region. Call the Share-Net team at 033 330 3931 or email sharenet [at] wessa.co.za.
- Find the Conservation Guidelines (downloadable as PDFs) on www.conservationatwork.co.za.
- Veld & Flora – the monthly journal of the Botanical Society. Call 021 797 2090.
- Court, D. 2010. Succulent Flora of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Nature.
- Harrison, J. & Young, D. 2010. Farming for the future: farming sustainably with nature. Cape Town: Animal Demography Unit. This valuable resource can be downloaded.
- Vlok, J. & Schutte-Vlok, A.L. 2010. Plants of the Klein Karoo. Hatfield: Umdaus Press.
- Watts, J. 2018, November 3. “Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN”. The Guardian. Available at www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/03/stop-biodiversity-loss-or-we-could-face-our-own-extinction-warns-un
- Hallmann C.A., Sorg M., Jongejans E., Siepel H., Hofland N., Schwan H., et al. 2017. “More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas”. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185809. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185809
- Environmental Management – www.emmagazine.co.za.
- Garrow, C. & Marr, S. Swimming on the Edge of Extinction – The Perilous State of the Indigenous Fishes of the Western Cape. Order the book at www.nisc.co.zaor www.kalahari.com.
Red Data Books (RDBs) and Red Lists are very useful tools and sources of information for use in species conservation. They are lists of threatened plants and animals specific to a certain region, and a vital source of information in guiding land-use decision making and conservation planning. South Africa has produced RDBs dealing with each of the following: birds, land mammals, fishes (fresh water and estuarine only), butterflies, plants, reptiles and amphibians. Read about the Threatened Species Programme at www.sanbi.org and the Mammal Red List at www.ewt.org.za/Reddata/reddata.html. Find international information at www.iucnredlist.org.
The information under this heading, “Websites and publications” could be so extensive that it would not be helpful at all, and has been drastically shortened. The reader is encouraged to:
- Google relevant words like “biodiversity”, “environment” and “ecosystem services”.
- Refer to the “Websites and publications” heading in other chapters in the “Resources and Good Agricultural Practice” section of this publication.
- Visit the websites of role players mentioned in this chapter.