The first national list of threatened terrestrial ecosystems for South Africa was gazetted on 9 December 2011 (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act: National list of ecosystems that are threatened and in need of protection, (G 34809, GoN 1002), 9 December 2011).
Listing of threatened or protected ecosystems
The Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004) provides for listing of threatened or protected ecosystems, in one of four categories: critically endangered (CR), endangered (EN), vulnerable (VU) or protected. The purpose of listing threatened ecosystems is primarily to reduce the rate of ecosystem and species extinction. This includes preventing further degradation and loss of structure, function and composition of threatened ecosystems. The purpose of listing protected ecosystems is primarily to preserve witness sites of exceptionally high conservation value.
It was agreed early on in the listing process that a phased approach should be taken, given the complexity of the process. The first list of ecosystems consists of threatened ecosystems in the terrestrial environment. Future phases will deal with threatened ecosystems in the freshwater, estuarine and marine environments, and with protected ecosystems in all environments.
The ecosystems listed make up 9.5% of the country, with critically endangered and endangered ecosystems together accounting for 2.7% and vulnerable ecosystems a further 6.8%.