World Floral Kingdoms
Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site
Vice Chairperson Philip Fourie brought it to my attention that UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) had recently announced an extension of the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site (CFRWHS). While this was obviously something to celebrate, I realised that I did not know very much about UNESCO, the CFR or WHS. I asked Philip to share a bit more with me and the rest of our readers, hence the following short article:
UNESCO had its origins in the International Bureau for Education, which was founded in 1925 under the auspices of the League of Nations. The United Nations and its offspring UNESCO began operations in 1946. In 1948, UNESCO recommended that member states should make free primary education compulsory and universal. (At the 2000 World Education Forum, member governments committed to achieving basic education for all by 2015 – which shows how long it takes to change the world!).
UNESCO’s early activities in the field of culture included, for example, the Nubia Campaign, launched in 1960. Its purpose was to move the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, to keep it from being submerged by the River Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. The organisation’s work on heritage led to the adoption, in 1972, of the Convention On the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978. In South Africa there are eight WHS, including the Cape Floristic Region and Robben Island.
In 1968, UNESCO organized the first conference aimed at reconciling the environment and development, a problem which is now referred to as sustainable development. The main outcome of the 1968 conference was the creation of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB). The programme and its realisation in biosphere reserves is a very useful concept with which to achieve biodiversity conservation in a developing country such as South Africa and is an excellent tool with which to extend systems of protected areas. The concept is based on the inclusion of people in biodiversity conservation management – much different from the historical way of practicing biodiversity conservation through the exclusion of people.
The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) is the smallest and most diverse of the six floral kingdoms of the world. In the heart of the CFR lies the Kogelberg, a mountainous area that is known as a botanical hotspot and a centre of endemism. The incredible biological wealth of the Kogelberg area contributed to its designation as South Africa’s first biosphere reserve (the KBR) under the MAB programme in 1998.
In order to qualify for World Heritage status, a protected area must be of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science or conservation; it must contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species; and it must have outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
The biodiversity conservation of the Cape Floristic Region was given a major boost on 3 July 2015, when UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee approved the expansion of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (CFRPA) World Heritage Site. With the approval of this expansion the CFRPA has increased in size from 557,584 ha to 1,094,741 ha, and now includes 163 new land pockets, all of which were previous Protected Areas. The World Heritage Site (WHS) Extension includes additional properties within the existing WHS complexes, such as Table Mountain National Park and the Boland Mountains, as well as new complexes in the Garden Route and Agulhas.
“It is a big win for conservation that the original Cape Floristic Region Protected Areas (CFRPA) World Heritage Site has been doubled in size. We can celebrate that important fynbos and its associated ecosystems will now be receiving further protection and attention,” said The Table Mountain Fund’s Manager, Dr Cliff Dlamini.
“The Table Mountain Fund is proud to have provided financial support to this process and congratulates SANParks, CapeNature and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, who jointly compiled the application to extend the Cape Floral Kingdom boundaries, on this major conservation win.”