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South Africa's Biodiversity

The important role that South Africa’s natural wealth plays...

requires us to CONSERVE our natural assets for prosperity, GROW opportunities in the biodiversity sector and TRANSFORM the sector to ensure all South Africans participate in the economic activities and the benefits it presents in the present time to ensure a prosperous future for our country, economy and people.

The contribution of the Biodiversity Sector to the economy and livelihood of society is vast and includes a complex range of stakeholders.

The journey and transformation of the Biodiversity Sector is key to creating an inclusive approach with all levels of society and stakeholders in order to reduce poverty and inequality. Investment into the sector enables South Africa to benefit from a robust economy by creating jobs, improving livelihoods and people's wellbeing.

With this in mind, South Africa’s national government, through the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has committed to drive strategic goals, actions and processes of The National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (NBES) and National Development Plan (NDP) 2030.

The DFFE, together with strategic initiatives and partners, such as Operation Phakisa, SANBI and UNDP BIOFIN  investment of the Biodiversity Sector Investment Portal bridges the gap between Investment Opportunities (Investees) to investment partners (Investors). Creating awareness of the biodiversity economy opportunities along with a platform to match Biodiversity Sector Business to Business (B2B), helps build towards the 2030 goal of achieving an average annualised Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 10% per annum.

South Africa’s rich species, ecosystems and natural heritage form a foundation for the economy and society by providing a range of services and products that are vital for the well-being of people.

The equitable and sustainable use, conservation, protection, management and restoration of South Africa’s natural assets is strategically important for impactful economic growth and development of ecosystem services.

South Africa is a megadiverse country and has exceptional richness of species and endemism, with plant species abundance (plants that are found nowhere else on Earth) being among the highest on the planet, and a wide range of bioclimatic, oceanographic, geological and topographical settings. Together, these create high ecosystem diversity across all realms:

  • TERRESTRIAL realm: nine biomes and 458 ecosystem types, approximately 80% of which are endemic.
  • MARINE realm: exceptional marine biodiversity and a wide array of eco-regions with 150 distinct ecosystem types.
  • FRESHWATER realm: high variability of rainfall leads to diverse freshwater ecosystems.
  • INLAND WETLANDS are classified into 135 distinct types; rivers are classified into 222 distinct types.
  • ESTUARINE realm: South Africa’s 290 estuaries and 42 micro-estuaries are classified into 22 estuarine ecosystem types.
  • An ecological definition of the COAST draws from the terrestrial, marine and estuarine ecosystem maps and includes 186 ecosystem types.
  • South Africa’s SUB-ANTARCTIC TERRITORY (situated 1 700 km south- east of the mainland) consists of Prince Edward Island, Marion Island and surrounding seas. There are five terrestrial and 29 marine ecosystem types.

Did you know South Africa’s Biodiverse Stats ? 



of the world’s coastal marine species - 95 000 known species


of the world’s plants - 20 000 species


of the world’s bird


of the world’s plant and mammal species


of the world’s
land area


of the world’s freshwater fish


of the world’s sharks, skate and ray species


of the world’s vascular plant species


of the world’s


of the world’s


of the world’s amphibians


of the world’s