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Cape Floral Kingdom

Author: Trevor Sandwith ~ Cape Action for People and the Environment (C.A.P.E.)

( Article Type: Explanation )

The plant life of planet Earth is regarded by bio-geographers as falling into six floral ‘kingdoms’, each characterised by a core set of species. On the southwestern tip of Africa is the smallest of these, the Cape Floral Kingdom. It is the only one in the world contained within a single national boundary, and is the richest in that it has the most species, and even then represents a third of South Africa’s plant species in only 6% of its area. This kingdom includes several types of vegetation, including forests, the succulent and Nama karoos, and extends as far as the thicket biome in the Eastern Cape.

At the heart of the CFK, however, is the fynbos vegetation of the Western Cape. Fynbos, loosely regarded as the South African equivalent to the vegetation of the Mediterranean Basin, is phenomenally rich in plant biodiversity. Of the approximately 8 700 species found here, 68% are found nowhere else in the world. As in other parts of the world, the treasures of the region are under threat. Urban expansion, increased environmental demands by industry and agriculture, invasion by exotic weed species, and even uncontrolled development in response to the growth of tourism, have all contributed to the CFK becoming one of the ‘hottest of hotspots' globally in the global fight to conserve biodiversity. More than 1 700 plant species here are regarded as under the threat of extinction in the wild. This is three-quarters of the South African national list. Protection and conservation management in the region are of extremely high priority.

With support from the Global Environmental Facility, South Africa has prepared a strategy and action plan to address the threats to the Cape Floral Kingdom and adjacent marine environment. Termed Cape Action for People and the Environment, it is one of the world’s most progressive region-wide eco initiatives to involve government, NGO's and community-based organisations in co-operative action.