Plants in the Cape Floral Kingdom.
© CI/Photo by Haroldo Castro
Restricted ranges are a characteristic feature of the hotspot, with the total range of some species being smaller than half a soccer field. Plowing a field or building a single house in this hotspot can decimate the entire world population of a unique form of life.
South Africa carried the dubious title of being home to the world’s hottest hotspot, the Cape Floral Region. Situated at the tip of Africa, this majestic floral kingdom is the only to be fully contained within a single country.
Incredibly it has the highest known concentration of plant species in the world, its nearest rival, the South American rain forest, has only one third the number of species. Even more remarkable is that 70 percent of the Cape’s impressive 9,600 plant species grow nowhere else on Earth.
The Cape is also home to many charismatic animal species, and has particularly high reptile and amphibian diversity. One such species is the rare Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus), which is one of the most threatened tortoises in the world, having lost 97 percent of its habitat to agricultural expansion. The hotspot is also home to many rare, endangered and unique frog species, including the elusive Table Mountain Ghost Frog (Heleophryne rosei), which only occurs on Table Mountain and has one of the most restricted ranges of any amphibian in the world.
The highly transformed Cape Flats area outside Cape Town, has the highest concentration of Red Data species in the world and is the leading site for metropolitan species extinctions globally, with fifteen species per km2 being in danger of extinction.
This World Heritage Site is by far the smallest and the richest of the World’s six floral kingdoms, but it is also the most threatened. Alien plant infestation, too frequent fires, commercial afforestation and agricultural and urban expansion has transformed 80 percent of the landscape. This has left scatted fragments of natural vegetation, across the Cape, harboring high numbers of endangered species.