The Vulnerability Index and the Red Data List

In the SHP Toolkit, the Vulnerability Index helps us to regulate which flowers are picked from the veld for the market. It currently provides information on 150 fynbos species that exist in natural populations on the Agulhas Plain. Of these 71 are harvested and 79 may have potential to be harvested. The Index, which is based on biological criteria, provides a guideline as to how the long-term population of each species may be affected by harvesting. Each species is awarded a score on a scale of 0-11. High scores indicate a greater risk that harvesting will affect the survival of that species.

The Vulnerability Index tells us which fynbos plant species:

  1. We can pick;
  2. We can pick, but need to monitor because they
    may become more threatened;
  3. And we should not pick because harvesting poses too
    great a risk to their survival.

The South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI) oversees the production of the Red Data List of threatened plant species, which includes fynbos. The Red Data List states the conservation status of plant species and draws attention to the degree to which individual species are under threat within the country as a whole. The Vulnerability Index is used in conjunction with the Red Data List by regulatory authorities, such as CapeNature.

The Vulnerability Index differs from the Red Data List in two significant ways: (i) it focuses specifically on the risks posed by harvesting; and (ii) it focuses only on natural species populations found on the Agulhas Plain. Variations in Red Data List and Vulnerability Index scores are explained by these differences in focus.