NATIONAL NEWS - South Africa’s biggest study on the status of the plant, animal life and water was released Thursday, 3 September 2019 – and it’s not looking pretty for the environment or the economy.
At the launch of the National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) for 2018, spearheaded by the SA National Biodiversity Institute, Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy said: “One in seven of the 23,312 indigenous species assessed are considered threatened with extinction. Of the 2,911 animals assessed, 12% are also threatened with extinction.
“Mammals face a higher threat level at 17%,” Creecy noted.
“Thirty-six of 20,401 plant species are already extinct, and a further 70 plant species are possibly extinct. Overall, 14% of plant species are threatened with extinction.”
The NBA noted up to 418,000 jobs were related to biodiversity. “This compares favourably with the mining sector, which sustained approximately 430 000 jobs in 2017,” Creecy said.
“Many of these jobs are in rural areas where there are limited employment alternatives.”
Lead scientist of the NBA Dr Andrew Skowno said protecting biodiversity was key to economic growth. “South Africa’s economy is highly dependent on its biodiversity; 70% of our land is used as natural grazing for livestock. The growing wildlife economy and biodiversity-based tourism demand generate a direct spend of R31 billion annually.”
More needed to be done to protect endangered species, the NBA noted. “Just considering threatened taxa [groups of organisms], there are high proportions that are unprotected: 98% of threatened birds, 98% of threatened plants, 95% of threatened freshwater fish, 94% of threatened amphibians, 89% of threatened mammals, 89% of threatened butterflies and 37% of threatened reptiles are unprotected.”
The NBA reported there were about 1,300 edible plant species in SA, more than 20 edible insects in Limpopo and more than 2,000 indigenous plant species, while 147 vertebrate species had traditional medicine uses.
“Medicinal plants and animals are essential to 200,000 traditional health practitioners and provide a further 93,000 income-generating activities for harvesters and traders,” the NBA said.
“The informal African traditional medicine industry is valued at R18 billion per year, but there is growing concern about its sustainability.”
Overextraction of water, pollution, alien species, habitat loss and climate change were the biggest threats.