Kirstenbosch Threatened Biodiversity Programme
The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden Threatened Species Programme forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's Threatened Biodiversity Programme.
The Threatened Species Programme, run by Kirstenbosch Garden, is an integrated programme involving a number of different role players. Within the South African National Biodiversity Institute collaboration on threatened programmes exists between the Gardens, Research and Education directorates. Our aim is to strengthen our capacity by developing collaboration between these directorates and to extend this to the other eight SANBI Gardens.
We also collaborate with other conservation partners and role players including, Cape Nature, South African National Parks, Table Mountain Park, Conservation bodies run by the City of Cape Town, Working for Wetlands, Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, The Botanical Society of South Africa, The Millennium Seed Bank Project, local area friends groups, horticultural clubs, private specialist nurseries and certain interested landowners.
The Kirstenbosch Garden's Threatened Species Programme includes an integrated ex situ and in situ conservation approach. We initially tried to build up extensive collections of threatened plant species, but found this to be too difficult for a variety of reasons:
- Lack of nursery space
- Lack of horticulturists to manage the large number of threatened species
- Pot collections of threatened species are not representative of the gene pool
- Many of the fynbos' species are difficult to grow, disease prone and short-lived
As a result we regularly lose species from our collections and have to re-collect from the ever-diminishing natural populations. This programme therefore changed to the more integrated approach to conservation described below in order to make a better and more effective contribution to conservation.
Objectives of the Kirstenbosch Threatened Species Programme are:
1. To develop an integrated ex situ and in situ conservation programme
2. To change the focus from purely threatened species to include threatened habitats
Ex situ objectives:
- Seed Banking by The Millennium Seed Bank is the primary ex situ approach for the best genetic preservation of plant species
- Threatened plants are grown and maintained in stock beds separate from garden collections
- The threatened plant stock beds are used to preserve threatened species from extinction and as source material for restoration, seed banking and garden displays
- Selected threatened plants are kept in pot collections in the nursery
- Some threatened species are represented in Garden displays if they are hardy enough
- A Demonstration Garden 'The Garden of Extinction' displays a selection of threatened plants accompanied by interpretation to educate and create awareness
- Backup collections of certain threatened plants are housed in other Botanical Gardens
Backup collections are also maintained by selected specialist growers who also make them available at our plant sales outlets
In situ objectives:
- In situ conservation is seen as the primary focus of the Threatened Plants Programme at Kirstenbosch
- Kirstenbosch focuses its in situ conservation efforts on locally occurring threatened habitats, i.e. Cape lowlands (Sand Plain Fynbos) and Renosterveld
- The Millennium Seed Bank Project (Cape) plays a primary role in these activities
- Collaboration involves numerous conservation partners such as SANParks and CapeNature
- Restoration involves supporting the local core conservation site managers through training their staff in seed collecting and horticultural techniques
- Collaboration with Research Directorate, Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildlife, and their public involvement programme is a key activity
- Collaboration with SANBI Education Directorate is crucial to carry the message about the threats to our flora to teachers and learners
- In situ restoration approach is aimed at the holistic restoration of the habitat as far as is possible, including species complexes, fauna, habitat management, i.e. fire regimes
- The aim is to collect seed and grow and restore vegetation within a year of collection of the plant material thus limiting the time the plant material is kept ex situ
- Flagship species are used to market the programme