With one of the highest human densities in sub-Saharan Africa, the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany hotspot is under threat from a number of activities, principally cultivation, plantation forestry and urbanization, and only about one-quarter of the hotspot's original vegetation remains in pristine condition.
Cultivation in South Africa increased by 122 percent between 1987 and 1994. Both large-scale commercial agriculture and subsistence farming pose a threat to the forests, thickets and grasslands of the hotspot. Subsistence farming in communal areas consists mostly of shifting cultivation, which, while not expanding at the moment, affects hundreds of square kilometers. In these areas, land that has not been affected by cultivation is often under severe grazing pressure from domestic livestock; almost half of the region is communally owned and supports livestock in numbers far in excess of what is considered ecologically sustainable. Commercial sugarcane farming has completely transformed large tracts of land, especially in the coastal regions north and south of Durban.
Industrial timber production also poses a threat, particularly through the establishment of large-scale timber plantations, which have already destroyed several hundred thousand hectares of species-rich primary grasslands. In addition to transforming habitats, stands of alien tree species, including pine trees (Pinus spp.), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) and Australian wattles (Acacia spp.) alter the natural hydrological regime by using more groundwater than native species and affect the chemical and physical status of soils.
Urbanization around the hotspot's three major urban centers, Maputo in southern Mozambique and Durban and Port Elizabeth in South Africa, may also pose a threat, particularly through the development of unplanned sprawling slums that stretch out into the countryside around cities.
Other threats include invasive alien plant species and localized mining activities, specifically titanium extraction from coastal sands. In southern Mozambique, large-scale conversion of trees into charcoal to supply the growing demand for firewood in the larger Maputo area also poses a threat.