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Warning

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Cape Town’s biodiversity is under threat

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Various invasive species will, if left unchecked, constantly increase their footprint in our city. In addition, the predictions for local climatic change (a drier and hotter Cape Town) point toward new invasions from plants that thrive in hot, dry climates.

Flora

The Cape Peninsula is one of the world's ‘hottest of hot spots’ of plant diversity in the world, with around 7 316 plant species collectively referred to as fynbos. Almost 5 000 of these species are endemic, which means that they occur nowhere else in the world. Although over 2 500 endemic plant species are found locally, Cape Town has the highest number of threatened plant species of any metropolitan area in the world.

Urban development and invasive species are the two biggest threats facing biodiversity in the Peninsula. Invasive plants not only displace native species, they also alter the habitat for wildlife, and impact negatively on ecosystems and food sources.

Invasive alien plants are associated with the extinction of 58 plant species in the Cape Floristic Region. It is also estimated that 750 fynbos plant species currently face extinction because of ‘crowding out’ by invasions from exotic plant species.

Fauna

Interventions are already underway to save the endemic western leopard toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus), which has declined through urbanisation, road traffic and the spread of the invasive guttural toad from a small population discovered in Constantia.

The fynbos biome is also home to numerous endemic birds such as the protea canary (Serinus leucopterus), Cape siskin (Pseudochloroptila totta), Cape rock-jumper (Chaetops frenatus), Victorin’s warbler (Bradypterus victorini), Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer) and orange-breasted sunbird (Nectarinia violacea). All these indigenous bird populations are being threatened by house crows, which are more aggressive and compete for resources.