Habitats: more about fynbos

The two quotes below make quite clear what enormous scale of species loss is anticipated in the Fynbos Biome over the next few decades:

The Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the six Floral Kingdoms in the world, and the only one contained in its entirety within a single country. It is characterised by its high richness in plant species (8700 species) and its high endemicity (68% of plant species are confined to the Cape Floral Kingdom). The Cape Floral Kingdom thus compares with some of the richest floras worldwide, surpassing many tropical forest regions in its floral diversity. www.plantzafrica.com/vegetation/fynbos.htm

A loss of Fynbos biome area of between 51% and 65% is projected by 2050 (depending on the climate scenario used), and roughly 10% of the endemic Proteaceae have ranges restricted to the area lost. Species range projections suggest that a third could suffer complete range dislocation by 2050, and only 5% could retain more than two thirds of their range. Projected changes to individual species ranges could be sufficient to detect climate change impacts within ten years. Midgely et al, 2002.

Within the Fynbos Biome, there are two main subdivisions - fynbos and renosterveld. The blue antelope, and other large animals now extinct or confined to conservation areas, would previously have been found on renosterveld. While fynbos is richer in plant species, the soils are poorer and cannot support big game.

Renosterveld is typified by the presence of members of the Daisy Family and Grasses, and is found on fine-grained soils (mainly calys and silts). One argument is that continuous grazing has meant that shrubs have gained ground at the expense of grasses. Previously game and Khoi cattle migrated over the regions, but since 1700 European stock farmers used renosterveld. By now its fertile soils mean that much of it has been ploughed for wheat.

www.plantzafrica.com provides a synopsis of environmental history and futures for large animals on Renosterveld:

Because of its high soil fertility, it is probable that all the herds of large game in the Fynbos Biome occurred in Renosterveld. Thus Mountain Zebra, Quagga, Bluebuck, Red Hartebeest, Eland, Bontebok, Elephant, Black Rhino and Buffalo were common, as were Lion, Cheetah, Wild Dog, Spotted Hyena and Leopard. Two of these only ever occurred within the Fynbos Biome: Bluebuck and Bontebok. Of these large animals, only the Mountain Zebra and Leopard survived (by fleeing to the mountains) with the Bontebok just surviving near Bredasdorp. All the other species became extinct in the Fynbos Biome (one elephant survives in the Forest Biome within the Fynbos Biome area), although many have been introduced into conservation areas from outside the regions. The Quagga and Bluebuck are extinct.

This high fertility has meant that most of the area has been converted to agriculture. Less than 5% of West Coast Rensosterveld remains (the Rio Convention has as its goal the preservation of 10%!), with other Renosterveld types also heavily ploughed or used as augmented pasture. It seems unlikely that viable populations of large mammals will ever be introduced into the Fynbos Biome for this reason.