Status and Trends of Biodiversity
South Africa occupies only 2% of the world’s surface area but is home to nearly 10% of the world’s plants (approximately 24 000 species), around 7% of the world’s vertebrate species, and 5.5% of the world’s known insect species (only about half of the latter have been described). In terms of the number of endemic species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, South Africa ranks as the fifth richest country in Africa and the 24th richest in the world. Marine biological diversity is also high. There are over 11 000 species found in South African waters, which is about 15% of global species, with more than 25% of these marine species (or 3 496 species) being endemic to South Africa. A high proportion of species are threatened, especially in river ecosystems (82%) and estuaries (77%). Three internationally recognized biodiversity hotspots (areas with especially high concentrations of biodiversity, which are under serious threat) are found in South Africa: the Cape Floral Kingdom (equivalent to the fynbos biome), Succulent Karoo (shared with Namibia) and the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany centre of endemism (Maputaland-Pondoland is shared with Mozambique and Swaziland). The succulent karoo biome is one of only two arid biodiversity hotspots in the world, the other being the Horn of Africa.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
528 Protected areas, of which 20 are marine, totalling 7.5 million ha or 6.2% of the land area. However, biomes such as grasslands and succulent karoo are under-conserved, as are rivers.
Percentage of Forest Cover
The total forest area (2000) is 8,917,000 ha, with 7,363,000 ha for natural forest area and 1,554,000 ha for plantations