Why is the Cape Floral Kingdom in decline and why does it matter?

The Cape Floral Kingdom is known for being the smallest of the world's six floral kingdoms, one in which plant species have found niches to develop in poor soil over millennia.

Now a new study has found that close to 40 species have gone extinct in the Western Cape since 1900.

On Weekend Breakfast, Africa Melane speaks to Patrick Dowling, project manager for environmental education and training at the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa).

Dowling makes the point that we cannot afford to ignore the problem as it affects us directly.

By conserving biodiversity we are conserving ourselves in the long run.

Patrick Dowling, Project manager for environmental education and training - Wessa

An extinction can quietly happen without too much fuss because of the limited extent of that particular species. But this is becoming more generalised as well and it's even confronting species that are much more widely spread.

Patrick Dowling, Project manager for environmental education and training - Wessa

He explains that there is a range of contributing factors including the particular niche environment species have to find to thrive, alien invasion and land use change as more people move to the Western Cape.

Dowling says the human factor in species extinction is part of a vicious cycle.

As people move for one reason or another, they put more pressure on the infrastructure - both the natural infrastructure on which we all depend and the built infrastructure which they find attractive in cities, towns and villages.

Patrick Dowling, Project manager for environmental education and training - Wessa

Then, more fossil fuel burning continues, more water use, more effluents, and these things compound to add problems to the infrastructure of the biodiversity and their support.

Patrick Dowling, Project manager for environmental education and training - Wessa

He says it's encouraging that the media has picked up on the problem and that citizens themselves are becoming more vocal about environmental issues like plastic packaging.

However, there needs to be more involvement on a practical level.

If there are enough civic voices raised, then politicians and decision-makers do tend to go with that big flow from below.

Patrick Dowling, Project manager for environmental education and training - Wessa

Dowling also suggests joining a group active in the field such as Wessa, Fynbos Forum or Greenpeace whose activities contribute to biodiversity conservation.

For more suggestions on how to make a difference, listen here:


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