Smart Living: Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a series of relationships in a complex web, which is also referred to as ‘the web of life’. Our natural environment includes rivers, wetlands, coastlines, mountains as well as all the life on earth, such as plants, animals and birds. When one part weakens or disappears, every other part within this complex web is affected. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the six floral kingdoms on earth, and the one with the highest density of plant species. It has over 9 000 different plant species and many animal species, and is also one of the global biodiversity hot spots. It is important to understand why biodiversity is important and what you can do to protect and enhance it.

Why is biodiversity conservation important?

The main threats to biodiversity are loss of habitat, invasive species, inappropriate fires, overexploitation, pollution, crime and climate change. We need to protect our biodiversity for the following reasons:

  • Biodiversity provides us with various ‘goods’ (for example food we can harvest, such as fish and maize, and goods for commercial production, such as flowers and herbs) and ‘services’ (for example the absorption of carbon dioxide by plants).
  • Healthy biodiversity improves our natural systems’ ability to withstand or recover from the impacts of global climate change.

What can we do?

There are lots of practical things that can be done, and a variety of local initiatives that we can join.

These are some good ways to start:

  • Be aware of your natural heritage – understand what it means to be part of a ‘web of life’ and to value our natural assets.
  • Plant indigenous trees and shrubs, which also sustain bird life and insects.
  • Remove invasive alien species from your garden and neighbourhood.
  • Plant a food garden and learn more about organic agriculture, permaculture, companion planting and crop rotation.
  • Make a compost heap or start a worm farm.
  • Use natural compost and pest avoidance techniques instead of harsh pesticides in your garden.
  • Participate in local activities by joining an environmental club.
  • Be aware of the main environmental needs and issues in your community, and learn more about the animals that share your space.
  • Visit and enjoy nature reserves and conservation areas.
  • Never throw a burning cigarette out of your car window.
  • Do not litter, dump or destroy our natural wealth, such as rivers and wetlands.
  • Take your rubble or garden refuse to an established dump – do not leave it in the veld.
  • Ensure that oil and other chemical products are disposed of at established dumps – do not throw them away in the veld or down your water drains.
  • Put a collar and bell on your cat to alert and protect small local indigenous animals.

Download the Biodiversity Section of the Smart Living Handbook