Status and Trends of Biodiversity
Swaziland supports a diverse assemblage of habitats, which are home to a wide range of organisms. Survey work has shown that significant portions of southern Africa’s plant and animal species occur here. The eastern region of Swaziland, for example, forms part of the Maputaland Centre of Plant Diversity, one of the world’s hotspots of floral and faunal species richness and endemism, while the western region is the Drakensberg Escarpment Endemic Bird Area also of global significance. Three biomes occur in Swaziland, namely the grassland, savanna and forest biomes. The forest biome is the most restricted, covering less than 1% of the country’s total area. The extent of aquatic ecosystems is limited to about 1% of the total land area and most of them are manmade in the form of water reservoirs for agriculture and water supply. There are a total of 2,715 higher plant species, 378 breeding birds, 111 reptile species and 41 amphibian species (WRI Earth Trends). A total of 121 mammal species have been identified, which represents a third of all non-marine mammal species occurring in southern Africa. The larger carnivores or herbivores are more or less restricted to game reserves (Swaziland National Trust Commission). Natural processes (e.g. erosion), human activities (e.g. agriculture), forest plantations and human settlements are causing a decrease in the diversity and distribution of the natural flora. Land degradation, fragmentation of habitats, invasive plant species and rapid degradation of the biological resources are the key challenges to be addressed.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
Approximately only 4% of Swaziland’s total land area is protected, represented in twelve conservation areas. The main conservation areas are 4 nature reserves: Malolotja, Mlawula, Mantenga and Hawane run by the Swaziland National Trust Commissin.