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Red Data List of southern African Plants

Craig Hilton-Taylor is to be congratulated on producing this magnificent pillar-box red volume, which lists the status of our plants as of August 1995. Get your copy now (R50.00 at Kirstenbosch or NBI, Pretoria)!

Some 3 435 plant species are threatened - amounting to 15 % of our flora.

IUCN Category All Plants Proteas
eXtinct 58 4
Endangered 250 34
Vulnerable 423 45
Rare 1411 76
Uncertain(I+K) 1293 1
Total 3435 160

Thus of our 374 taxa of proteas, some 43 % are listed in the Red Data Book! Proteas comprise 7 % of the eXtinct species, 14 % of the Endangered species, 11 % of the Vulnerable species, 5 % of the Rare species and less than 1 % of the uncertain species. Since proteas comprise 1.6% of the species on the subcontinent, we might say that if any of the above percentages exceeded 2 % then it would be a cause for serious concern! The status of our proteas is obviously not very healthy.

We last dealt with the rarity of proteas in PAN 9.12, to which Jan Vlok responded in PAN 13.8. What changes have occurred in our proteas since December 1990? Briefly (summarized from list opposite):
- 10 spp have been graded up to Endangered, 1 down from eXtinct;
- 7 spp have been graded up to Vulnerable, 6 down from Endangered;
- 9 spp have been graded up to Rare, 4 down to Rare;
- 7 spp have been graded down to not threatened.
Thus 26 species have been graded to a more serious status and 18 species are now considered to be safer than 5 years ago.

An interesting addition to the Red Data Book is the inclusion of the regional status of plants (by the old South African provinces). These local rarities are:

Local Rarities (countrywide status = not threatened, unless noted):

Fa macnaughtonii (R): R in Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal &
Eastern Transvaal, Uncertain in Swaziland;

Ld spissifolium oribinum (U): U in Eastern Cape & KwaZulu-Natal;

Ls gerrardii: V in KwaZulu-Natal, Uncertain in Swaziland;

Ls innovans (V): V in Eastern Cape & KwaZulu-Natal;

Pr comptonii: V in KwaZulu-Natal & Eastern Transvaal, E in Swaziland;

Pr gaguedi: eXinct in Namibia;

Pr parvula: R in KwaZulu-Natal, Uncertain in Swaziland;

Pr subvestita: R in KwaZulu-Natal;

Pr welwitschii: R in KwaZulu-Natal.

If you feel that any of the listed Red Data Book status' are inappropriate, please contact us. We will be holding a workshop to update the categories further - using Protea Atlas Project data - and anyone who feels that they can contribute will be welcome. More importantly, if you can visit some of these rarer species and collect data on their current population sizes and extent (using our normal SRS and the codes thereon - they provide sufficient data!), these will prove most useful in determining the status of our plants.

Protea Species with status changes (since 1991)


Ld sericeum (up from V)

Ld thymifolium (up from V)

Ls arenarium (up from R)

Ls harpagonatum (new species)

Pr namaquana (up from R)

Pr nubigena (up from Uncertain)

Pr pudens (up from V)

Pr roupelliae hamiltonii (up from R)

Se aemula foeniculacea (subspecies)

So tenuifolius (down from eXtinct)


Ld tradouwense (up from R)

Ls fulgens (down from E)

Ls innovans (up from nt)

Ls pluridens (up from nt)

Pa longicaulis (down from E)

Pa nova (new species)

Pr laetans (up from nt)

Se altiscapa (up from R)

Se brownii (down from E)

Se deluvialis (up from R)

So crassifolius (down from E)

So scabridus (down from E)

Sp ericoides (down from E)

Ve alpina (up from nt)


Di fraterna (up from nt)

Di thym. thymelaeoides (up from nt)

Di thym. meridiana (up from nt)

Fa macnaughtonii (from Uncertain)

Ld discolor (down from E)

Ld dregei (down from V)

Ld pondoense (new species)

Ld roodii (up from nt)

Ls muirii (up from nt)

Mi chrysanthus (up from nt)

Mi pauciflorus (up from nt)

Pr venusta (down from V)

Se triternata (down from E)

Se balanocephala (new species)

Se flagellifolia (up from nt)

Not threatened

Ld cordatum (from Uncertain)

Ld ericifolium (down from R)

Ls glabrum (down from R)

Ls praecox (down from V)

Pr simplex (down from R)

Pr rubropilosa (down from R)

Pr vogtsiae (from Uncertain)


Ld spissifolium oribinum !HELP!


Ld grandiflorum not threatened should be "U" for status Uncertain as there is disagreement about its taxonomic status (Is it a good species?) and its locality has also been queried (Could it have been from elsewhere?). However, if it is a distinct taxon (species/subspecies), then its correct status is eXtinct. If (as John Rourke suggests - but has not published) it is merely Ld globosum, then its status is included in that of Ld globosum (i.e. Endangered).

Determining the status of Proteas:

In the past the Red Data Books have been left to the devices of the experts. However, it was not possible to evaluate their opinions regarding the status of Red Data Book plants. So from now on the process will be transparent and each decision must be justified. The new categories are rather different to those of the past. More details of this new scheme are presented opposite.

The criteria for inclusion in the category Critically Endangered (CR) includes, by definition, any of the following criteria:

A. Population reduction in the form of either of the following:

1. An observed, ... suspected reduction of at least 80% over the last 10 years or 3 generations, whichever is longer, based on:

(a) direct observation;

(b) an appropriate index of abundance;

(c) a decline in area of occupancy, extent or occurrence and or quality of habitat;

(d) actual or potential levels of exploitation;

(e) the effects of introduced taxa, hybridization, pathogens, pollutants, competitors or parasites.

2. A reduction of at least 80%, projected or suspected to be met within the next 10 years or 3 generations (the longest), based on b-e above.

B. Extent of occurrence estimated to be less than 100 km2 or area of occupancy estimated to be less than 10 km2, and estimates indicating any two of the following:

1. Severely fragmented or known from only one location.

2. Continuing decline in any of the following:

(a) extent of occurrence;

(b) area of occupancy;

(c) area, extent and/or quality of habitat;

(d) number of locations or sub-populations;

(e) number of mature individuals.

3. Extreme fluctuations in any of the following:

(a) extent of occurrence;

(b) area of occupancy;

(c) number of locations or sub-populations;

(d) number of mature individuals.

C: Populations estimated to number less than 250 mature individuals and either:

1. An estimated continuing decline of at least 25% within 3 years or 1 generation (the longest), or,

2. A continuing decline, observed, ... inferred in numbers of mature individuals and population structure in the form of either:

(a) severely fragmented (i.e. no sub-population estimated to contain more than 50 mature plants);

(b) all individuals are in a single population.

D. Population estimated to number less than 50 mature individuals.

E. Quantitative analysis showing the probability of extinction in the wild is at least 50% within 10 years or 3 generations, whichever is longer.

The aim of the new system is to provide an explicit categorization of Red Data Book status which can be evaluated, assessed, defended and updated. Although emphasis is placed on rigorous criteria, in the absence of good data, an assessment must still be made. However, the advantage is that the quantitative, qualitative or subjective data used in the assessment are spelled out for future evaluation. The categories proposed are:

Extinct (EX). A taxon is extinct when there is no doubt that the last individual has died.

Extinct in the wild (EW). Not known from outside of cultivation, despite exhaustive searches.

Critically Endangered (CR). At extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.

Endangered (EN). At a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.

Vulnerable (VU). At a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium term future.

Lower Risk - conservation dependent (LR-cd). Would be threatened, if not for a current conservation programme.

Lower Risk - near threatened (LR-nt). Close to VU.

Lower Risk - least concern (LR-lc). All other species for which data are available.

Data Deficient (DD). More data needed - may be threatened and even well studied!


Not evaluated (NE). Not yet assessed.

These are roughly grouped into Threatened (CR, EN, VU) and Lower Risk. A point to be stressed is that each and every species will be given a status (unlike in the past where the "not threatened", or old nt, were not actually given a status). The significance of this is that it is clear which species are LR-lc versus the important fact that DD and NE status means that their threatened/lower risk status has yet to be determined. In the past these categories fell into the cracks between threatened and those not given a status, and tended to be ignored.

So where does the transparency and openness come into it. Well the criteria for the classes are spelled out in full. Each criterion has a letter/number, which must be cited when the status is given, and the reference or reasons for choosing this status must be given. Thus Protea odorata is Critically Endangered, the reason being its rapid decline over the last 10 years to one plant (any of A1a, B1, B2, C2a+b, D, E - see opposite). Similar criteria exist for the other categories - in fact the same concepts are used - and given the same letters, only the levels (numbers and time frames) are larger.

The system opposite does not "feel right." For instance, most (well, more than half) Fynbos species have generation times which equal fire cycles. This is about 15 years! Thus, a Pincushion may be Critically Endangered if (A1) it has an observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction of at least 80% over the last 10 years or 3 generations = 45 years, whichever is longer (i.e. 45 years), based on ... etc. The criteria for Vulnerable is: an observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction of at least 20% over the last 10 years or 3 generations = 45 years, whichever is longer (i.e. 45 years), based on ... etc. Thus, almost all our proteas should be classified as Vulnerable, not just 43 per cent! However, if it does not make threatened in A1, it will certainly make it under B (Endangered - extent of occurrence less than 5 000 km2 or Vulnerable - 20 000 km2 - plus two subcriteria). Note - 20 000 km is 200 km X 100 km (the area of the Garden Route), or 2000 km X 10 km (five times the combined length of the Langeberg, Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains), or more than 1/5 (almost 1/4) the total area of the Cape Floristic Kingdom!

It is only when we compare it to the rest of the world (yes, even the much-discussed tropics!) that it becomes obvious just how unique our flora really is.

So do your bit. It should be clear that atlas data will be invaluable in assessing our proteas. Please visit those rare species this spring. Make your mark on our maps, in the Red Data Books, and in conservation.

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