SA conservation areas face 'urgent' threats

South Africa’s conservation areas are facing “real and urgent” threats, and first world countries must do more to help, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Wednesday.

As a result of climate change, the Kruger National Park could experience more intense rainfall interspersed with longer dry spells, he told the World Parks Conference in Somerset West.

This could result in changes to tree cover and greater competition for water.

Fynbos species in the Table Mountain National Park could become extinct, while there may be more fires and accelerated spreading of alien invasive species.

While South Africa is ready to do more, economically advanced countries have to go even further and “come good in supporting us”.

“Therefore, we must conclude the negotiations on climate change, as agreed in the Bali road map, by the end of 2009.”

Van Schalkwyk said it will be one of the most complex, but also one of the most defining, international negotiations ever.

Outlining steps the country is already taking to combat climate change, Van Schalkwyk said expanding national parks could make them more resistant to climate change.

Examples are the Namaqua National Park and the Tankwa National Park. Making them larger creates parks with greater variety in altitude and more “biologically important” components.

This provides a greater variety of habitats, which could reduce the risks that climate change poses to endemic species.

He said “significant” amounts of money have already been spent to expand formal protected areas, bringing the number of national parks to 22.—Sapa

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