National Red List assessments indicate that 10% of South Africa’s birds and frogs, 20% of its mammals and 13% of its plants are threatened. In terms of natural ecosystems, the National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA) (2004) revealed that 82% of the main river ecosystems are threatened, with 44% critically endangered, 27% endangered, and 11% vulnerable. Of the country’s 440 vegetation types, 5% are critically endangered, 12% are endangered and 16% are vulnerable; 3 of the 13 estuary groups are critically endangered, a further 5 are endangered and 2 are vulnerable; 65% of the 34 marine biozones are threatened, with 12% critically endangered, 15% endangered and 38% vulnerable. In regard to freshwater ecosystems, the assessment revealed that only 29% of the country’s main rivers were unmodified, or largely unmodified, and an estimated 50% of South Africa’s wetlands have been destroyed.
The loss and degradation of South Africa’s biodiversity has serious implications for society and the economy. Natural ecosystems provide many essential services, such as the provision of clean water and air, prevention of soil erosion, pollination of crops, provision of medicinal plants, nutrient cycling, provision of food and shelter, as well as meeting spiritual, cultural, aesthetic and recreational needs.
Large portions of the country’s economy are heavily dependent on biodiversity (e.g. fishing industry, game and livestock ranching, horticulture and agriculture based on indigenous species, commercial and subsistence use of medicinal plants, ecotourism). The majority of South Africans are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, well-being and health care (it is estimated that over 70% of South Africans use traditional medicinal plants as their primary source of health care).
The major threats to biodiversity are:
habitat loss and degradation resulting from alternative land uses for urban, industrial and mining development, agriculture, biofuel production, canalization (aquatic) and trawling (marine) and invasive alien species.
Text from: Convention of Biological Diversity website