Droughts and wildfires causing biggest threats to Western Cape

Mimetes hottentoticus. Mimetes species form part of Fynbos, a fire-adapted flora.

IUCN, The International Union for Conservation of Nature, published a World Heritage Outlook 2 -report this week stating that invasive plant species cause increased intensity of wildfires and drying in Western Cape. The report assesses the threats climate change poses to Natural World Heritage sites.

Natural World Heritage sites affected by climate change have almost doubled in three years. The report was published at the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany.

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage site is amongst the list of assessed areas. The status of the region was assessed as “Good with some concerns”. Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve covers 322,030 ha of a total of 553,000 ha of the World Heritage site.  

According to the report, the main problems within the CFRPA are “aggressively invasive plant species and the resulting increased intensity of wildfires”. The alien plants, especially in Fynbos ecosystems, disrupt the catchment water retention and promote unnecessary wildfires. Wildfire is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but fire frequency and drying increase as climate change stimulates the growth of invasive, woody plants. This also plays a major role in Western Cape’s critical water shortages.

Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve has taken action towards climate change mitigation (removal and prevention of greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (reduction of negative impacts in social and biological systems).


CWBR has several projects to reforest riparian zones along the river banks by propagating indigenous trees.


CWBR’s number one response to climate change adaptation is water conservation. The Biosphere Reserve is currently researching how Aquatron, an ecological wastewater purification system works, and how water can be circulated and recycled in the system. The goal is mainly to offer a solution for informal settlements, but also elsewhere.  


IUCN report assessed education and interpretation programs to be “Effective” within CFRPA, and CWBR certainly believes in the importance of these programmes. Raising awareness is the key component for informed decision making, and education also increases climate change adaptation and mitigation capacities of communities.