Fynbos is the dominant vegetation type within the small botanical region known as the Cape Floristic Kingdom. Only five other floral kingdoms are recognised, and these kingdoms cover huge areas such as the whole of Australia and the majority of the Northern Hemisphere. The Cape Floral Kingdom is distinctive as it is the only Kingdom to occur within the boundaries of one country, South Africa. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is not just the smallest it is also the richest of all the Floral Kingdoms with the highest known concentration of plant species per square kilometer. It has over three times more concentration than its closest rival, the South American Rain forest. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is the most ecologically threatened of all the Kingdoms and the conservation of the region is of utmost priority.
Distressingly, some three-quarters of all plants in the South African Red Data Book occur in the Cape Floral Kingdom: 1 700 plant species are threatened to some extent with extinction! This is much more than one would expect based on either the area of the Kingdom (6%) or its plant numbers (36%). This again reflects the unique nature of Fynbos vegetation: many Fynbos species are extremely localised in their distribution, with sets of such localised species organised into “centers of endemism.”
Fynbos has a high species richness of birds, mammals, frogs, reptiles and insects. Each of these play a major role in pollination and seed dispersal. The Fynbos biome has a high number of endemic species (only occur within the Fynbos region) of which most can be viewed on Gondwana Game reserve. Due to agricultural activity, the natural distribution of Fynbos has been significantly reduced, therefore the distribution range of these endemic species is being isolated to only a few pockets. Certain bird, rodent and insects species are 100% reliant on the fynbos biome thus the reduction of fynbos distribution has meant a significant reduction in these animals’ populations. As part of the rehabilitation and future success of Fynbos and fynbos dependent species it is imperative to join these pockets through the formation of corridors.
Fire is an important abiotic factor in fynbos ecology. It is generally agreed that Fynbos Shrublands need a fire interval of between 10 and 25 years to maintain their biodiversity. The surplus carbon in some plants may be used to produce fire resistant structures such as seed protecting cones.
Although the plants are killed by fire, the seeds, which have been protected in these cones, are released after the fire. Many members of the Protea family adopt this strategy which is known as SEROTINY. The fire interval should not be too long though, as seed reserves and germination abilities of seeds become reduced as plants age.