Invasive Alien Plants in Wetlands and Estuaries are a Major Threat to Biodiversity in South Africa

Invasive Alien Plants in Wetlands and Estuaries are a Major Threat to Biodiversity in South Africa

In South Africa, there are several places at particular risk of abrupt disruption to biodiversity in a high-emissions scenario. The coast from Cape Agulhas to Mozambique, inland areas on the western side of the Western Cape Province up to the Namibian border, the entire Northern Cape Province, and parts of the Free State are all areas where biodiversity disruption could happen more abruptly and affect more species.

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) report released on the 3rd of October 2019, the creation of protected areas has helped protect biodiversity: 63% of plants are categorised as well as protected (based on a random sample of 900 species) and 63% of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, freshwater fish, and butterflies. However of the 2,911 animals evaluated, 12% are still threatened; of all 20,401 plants, 14% were categorised as threatened.

Nevertheless, over 3,000 of the 23,312 indigenous species evaluated have the potential to vanish if nothing changes. Wetlands and estuaries are major threats to South Africa’s biodiversity and are the least protected ecosystems in South Africa. Invasive alien plants that take up residence in these areas, absorbing large amounts of a perpetually shrinking water supply, are a massive burden on South Africa’s biodiversity.

Activity Rating: ** Still Standing

In order to strengthen current strategies aimed at improving biodiversity, South Africa needs to improve compliance with existing laws, intensify cross-sectoral planning, strengthen adaptive management, and build and maintain capacity. There are so many loopholes, outdated laws and non-compliances which leads to biodiversity protection being disregarded. South Africa has good policy and legislation for biodiversity management, however the implementation of these policies is still a dilemma. There is limited technical capacity to exploit existing policy tools and limited capacity to enforce legislations. There is a need to monitor and enforce the biodiversity laws to ensure that land and wildlife are protected.

Take Action


We recommend that the government put an effort on strengthening and maintaining the biodiversity laws to ensure compliance with the legislation. Technical capacity to utilise existing policy tools and enforcing legislations are limited. Continued expansion of protected areas will help to ensure biodiversity conservation, ecological sustainability as well as social and economic benefits from biodiversity. Protected areas are imperative for ecological sustainability, human health, and climate change adaptation.

Inland wetlands absorb flood waters, assisting to minimise the impact of floods, and clean pollutants from freshwater, providing effective water purification infrastructure. Because of water insecurity in South Africa, these areas should be considered a top priority. The reinstatement and protection of freshwater ecosystems, rivers, wetlands, and estuaries will deliver enormous returns on investment. Restoring ecosystems and maintaining them in good ecological condition means they are better able to sustain natural adaptation and mitigation processes, provide enhanced protection to human communities, and minimize the economic burden of future climate disasters.

Contact Information

Director External Communication: Mr Peter Mbelengwa


Tel:  +2712 399 8842

Department of Environmental Affairs                                                                                           

Private Bag X447, Pretoria, 0001

Learn more

For a more comprehensive view of the ‘Synthesis Report. National Biodiversity Assessment 2018: The status of South Africa’s ecosystems and biodiversity’. See,

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Africa Country Manager Tabana Mailula

Leave a Reply


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.