International Day for Biological Diversity 2016
On 22 May each year we celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity. Not only is this a reason to revel in nature, but it is also a reminder of what we as citizens should be doing to help conserve the biodiversity in the Western Cape.
In its simplest terms, biodiversity means variety of life. That includes all life, from tiny plant and insect life to the biggest animals. The reason this is so important is that it plays a critical role in meeting human needs as well as maintaining the ecological processes, upon which our province, and ultimately, the planet’s survival depends. The more species we lose, the less diverse life becomes and the more unhealthy our ecosystem becomes. On the other hand, if we conserve our unique biodiversity then human life, and the planet, will be able to thrive.
While CapeNature is the public entity mandated with the conservation of biodiversity in the Western Cape, it is up to every one of us to play a part as the battle cannot be fought by authorities alone.
Most land in the province is owned by private landowners so in order for us to expand conservation, the buy-in of landowners is required. With landowners taking an active interest in conservation, the work is not just limited to protected areas, but is expanded to maintain the ecosystem services that natural systems provide.
Living in the Western Cape comes with benefits of unique, diverse beauty, but also comes with challenges that require unique, integrated management. The province is one of the most ecologically complex and biodiverse areas in the world, due to the fact that it is home to more than 70% of one of the world’s six Floristic Kingdoms. The biodiversity of this unique area is mainly threatened by the presence and spread of alien vegetation and the occurrence of wildfires. While alien vegetation has a medium to long-term effect, the occurrence of unplanned and unmanaged wildfires has an immediate effect on the maintenance of the biodiversity of an area.
Because fynbos in the Western Cape region is a fire-driven ecosystem, fire remains a very important and necessary ecological process in the province. Fynbos requires fire in its lifecycle to survive and to rejuvenate itself and without fire, fynbos dies.
Therefore, any given fynbos fire is not necessarily bad news; it can be very good news. However, every year unwanted and uncontrolled veld and forest fires affect our landscapes, affecting natural ecosystem functions, endangering life and ruining property.
Increasing infestations of alien vegetation and climate change – with its attendant hotter and drier periods – are exacerbating the situation. Not only have the last few years seen a steady increase in the number of fires and the areas burnt, but certain areas are repeatedly being burnt – well beyond their natural cycles.
Ultimately, the success of effective fire management is dependent upon all landowners taking responsibility for fire on their properties. The National Veld and Forest Fire Act (101 of 1998) (NVFFA) places the responsibility for fire management on landowners.
Therefore, while fire is an important ecological process which keeps the biodiversity of the Western Cape thriving, it is up to all of us to play a part in fire management, not only from an ecological standpoint, but also from a legal standpoint in accordance with the NVFFA.
So this year for International Day of Biological Diversity, celebrate the biodiversity of the Western Cape, and make an active decision to play a part in maintaining this unique biodiversity. For more information, download the Landowner’s guide to Fire Management by clicking here.
The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. When first created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December (the date of entry into force of the Convention of Biological Diversity), was designated The International Day for Biological Diversity. In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as IDB, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity.