Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Garden of Extinction

Kirstenbosch Gardens

While in Cape Town, South Africa for the Society for Marine Mammalogy's 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals I was able to visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Kirstenbosch is unique in the sense that it was the world's first botanical garden to showcase native species.

The Cape Floristic Region (CFR)in South Africa is the smallest and richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms and spans the eastern and western Cape. It is also the only floral kingdom confined to a single continent. More than 8 200 plant species occur in the CFR. Around 80% of these plants are fynbos species. The British Isles, which are 3 ½ times the size of the CFR hosts less than 1 500 plant species. Taiwan hosts around 4 200 plant species but has a land area of about half the size of the CFR. Fynbos contains two to three times more species per thousand square kilometres than tropical rain forest.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden was established in 1913 to promote and conserve the flora of South Africa and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost botanical gardens. Kirstenbosch was the world’s first indigenous botanical garden. Kirstenbosch covers an area of 528 ha with a 36 ha cultivated garden containing over 4 500 species.

Many of the world's plant species are in danger of becoming extinct. The Cape Floristic Region is no exception and sadly a number of species are no more or have become extinct in the wild. To create awareness of the plight of endangered plants Kirstenbosch has created the 'Garden of Extinction.' The garden showcases many endangered plant species and a number of plant species that have become extinct in the wild. There is a tombstone in memory of Erica pyramidalis and all other extinct plants. The garden is also littered with thought-provoking quotes which are placed amongst the plants. With New Year being a time of reflection and resolutions, take a moment to consider these and the plight of some of the endangered plants, like Begonia ravenii and other creatures like the Fairy Pitta and Taiwan humpback dolphins that are threatened by the Hushan Dam and other development projects:

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