Thousands of SA plant species face extinction

By Time of article published Apr 25, 2010

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By Weekend Argus Reporter

Thirteen percent of South Africa's plants are in danger of extinction - and most of them are native to the Western Cape.

This was found in a comprehensive project to assess the state of flora in South Africa - believed to be the first country in the world to have done such a study.

The collaborative conservation project assessed the country's 20 456 plant species, and found that 2 577 - or 13 percent - were at risk of extinction. Of these, 67 percent were in the Western Cape, more than any other province.

More were listed under other categories of conservation concern. This means that, in total, nearly a quarter (24 percent) of the country's flora species need urgent conservation measures.

More than 200 professionals, as well as many other members of the public, contributed to the assessment.

Domitilla Raimondo, threatened plants programme manager for the SA National Biodiversity Institute, said South Africa was rich in species diversity and in the number of endemic plants - plants found naturally nowhere else in the world.

"South Africa not only contains one of the world's six floral kingdoms, but also three of the world's biodiversity hot spots."

The results of the assessment have been published in a new book called The Red List of South African Plants 2009, launched by the institute on Thursday - Earth Day.

The project was funded by Norad, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' development branch.

It was done using the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List System, an internationally endorsed scientific approach to assessing the risks of extinction to species.

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