According to the World Database on Protected Areas, about 10,859 km², representing about 14 percent of the total land area, in the Cape Floristic Region is in protected areas, nearly all of it in IUCN categories I to IV. However, this land is far from representative of the hotspot's full diversity; while 50 percent of the mountain landscapes are conserved, only nine percent of the lowlands, which are the most vulnerable, are under some form of protection.
Although the high costs of land purchase and park management activities have posed serious challenges to conservation in the region, a number of recent successes point to a more optimistic future for the hotspot's biodiversity. These achievements have helped to strengthen the already tremendous level of public awareness about the value of the province and its fauna and flora.
Among many promising projects is an initiative called the Working for Water Programme, which focuses on the removal of alien plants to encourage the regeneration of native vegetation and protection of watersheds. The program has created 3,600 jobs in the region and led to the clearing of nearly 500 km² of alien growth, one of the most impressive efforts of its kind in the world.
There have also been a number of triumphs in the establishment of new protected areas, including the Cape Peninsula National Park, the Cape Agulhas National Park, and the West Coast Biosphere Reserve. At a recent meeting in Suzhou, China, UNESCO recognized the importance of this region by declaring it a World Heritage Site for its "outstanding universal significance to humanity." Eight protected areas together comprise the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site, one of which includes Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the first time that a botanical garden has been recognized as a world heritage site for its biodiversity. The areas included in the world heritage site are Table Mountain, Baviaanskloof, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Boland Mountain Complex, Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, Swartberg Complex, Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, and Cederberg Wilderness Area. These eight separate protected areas total more than 553,000 hectares, making this World Heritage Site the richest for plants in the world on a per area basis.
It is hoped that UNESCO listing will help to encourage the 'biodiversity economy' in the region, and will promote eco-tourism and better planning and management of the region's incredibly rich natural resources, protected areas, and scenic landscapes for the benefit of all South Africans. Already, the Cape Action Plan for the Environment, a $6 million project funded by the GEF and World Bank, is supporting the development and implementation of a strategic plan for sustainable conservation of the hotspot's unique flora and fauna, and a $6 million investment by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is being used partially to support three mega-reserves: Baviaanskloof, Cederberg and Gouritz, and to build the capacity of previously disadvantaged local conservationists.