Climate, collectors blamed for decline of succulents in South Africa

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Johannesburg (AFP) – Climate change and rare plant collectors are decimating succulents in South Africa, government researchers said on Wednesday, warning that hundreds of these hardy species are at risk of extinction.

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), a government research body, succulents that grow in semi-arid regions of the country are experiencing unprecedented rates of decline following a rapid increase in global demand for collectible plants. driven by Asia.

“Over the past three years, plant material confiscated from plant traffickers by law enforcement has increased annually by more than 250%,” the institute said in a statement.

SANBI said more than 200 succulents – usually thick, fleshy plants that retain water to survive dry weather – have been added to an International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. (IUCN), which was updated last week.

Unique species growing in the Succulent Karoo – a region shared between South Africa and Namibia that includes some of the most biodiverse desert and semi-desert areas in the world – are particularly sought after, he said.

Plants are often sold on social media, he added.

“People who buy these plants, most of them don’t realize they’re breaking the law,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor, who heads the IUCN Red List unit.

“They’re completely ignorant or naive about the illegal plant trade…they just think, ‘Oh, that’s a good thing to buy for my house or my garden,'” he said.

Global warming is also contributing to the decline, the institute said.

The region has suffered from a severe and prolonged drought over the past decade.

This has taken its toll on many species in the area, including the critically endangered giant quiver tree. Its population is expected to decline 90% by 2080, SANBI said.

“A combination of illegal harvesting, long-term droughts linked to climate change, and continued land degradation from overgrazing livestock and mining creates a devastating storm causing unprecedented loss of biodiversity in the desert ecosystem. the richest in the world,” he said.

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