Know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa's indigenous plants
Our Conservation Work
BotSoc champions biodiversity conservation in South Africa to protect our extraordinary plant diversity and ecosystems.
Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) Programme
South Africa’s conservation community is a world leader in harnessing the power of citizen scientists to drive successful conservation initiatives and a prime example is the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers Project (CREW). This programme was initially founded in 2003, inspired by the Protea Atlas Project. CREW is based at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and supported by the Botanical Society.
CREW’s nationwide network of citizen scientists collect data on plant species of conservation concern to assist conservation planning and action, as well as engaging with key landowners and generating interest for special plants. There have been 35 CREW groups across the country involving more than 900 citizen scientists, with a significant proportion being BotSoc members. These numbers fluctuate due to the voluntary nature of citizen science. CREW’s work mainly targets sites outside South Africa’s network of formal protected areas.
EVENTS WE’RE INVOLVED IN
Botsoc promotes participation in a number of bioblitzing events, including the annual City Nature Challenge and Great Southern BioBlitz. During these events, citizen scientists organised by CREW and BotSoc log all the species they see – plants and animals – on iNaturalist. These are then identified and counted – adding to the monitoring data for conservation purposes.
It’s no small task organising these events, and our volunteers play a vital part in ensuring these bioblitzes are a huge success, representing South Africa at an international level.
Founded within the Cape Floristic Region, CREW expanded to include nodes in the summer rainfall region and in the Eastern Cape and BotSoc will be backing the development of at least one new node in the near future. These nodes assist CREW volunteer groups by offering resources, training courses, workshops and collaboration with local conservation agencies. SANBI Red List scientists use data collected by CREW groups to assess the conservation status of South African flora. This is then used to guide policy and land–use planning.
International recognition of the achievements of the CREW programme resulted in the funding of four CREW interns through the Groen Sebenza Programme, funded through the Presidential Budget at the time. Funding was disbursed to SANBI to roll out as part of the Green Jobs Fund. BotSoc then retained the interns for a further two years, during which time these interns were recruited by SANBI.
The BotSoc Conservation Programme is working closely with CREW to support botanical citizen science work across the country in priority areas and in close cooperation with Branches.
CREW and stewardship
Our CREW nodes actively participate in the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme Working Groups. Here they discuss and plan which sites should be included in South Africa’s Protected Area Network via stewardship. This is done in three steps:
- Each site is assessed by desktop study to see what species could occur there.
- Botanical surveys ‘ground-truth’ this.
- Our CREW citizen scientists highlight concerns and provide recommendations for the management plan of the site.
CREW’s support to protect medicinal taxa
In a project funded by BotSoc, our CREW team undertook a three-year project in the Ehlanzeni District in Mpumalanga, to compile Biodiversity Management Plans for six taxa. Through the project, it became clear that the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality in the district was a hotspot for some targeted threatened medicinal taxa. This sparked engagements with the relevant stakeholders – especially local village councils and tribal authorities, to sensitise them to the need to protect these species. The engagements also provided us an understanding of existing systems, so that we could work together to manage access to these species.
CREW citizen scientists and BotSoc volunteers
CREW and BotSoc work incredibly closely together. That’s why we encourage our BotSoc members to also serve as CREW citizen scientists and vice versa. Already the number of BotSoc members involved in CREW activities rose dramatically from March 2020 – where it was 10% – to March 2022 – where it came to 30%.
BotSoc’s priority is to support our Branches across the country to protect plants. It’s vital that our Branches are capacitated to participate in the Integrated Plant Conservation and Action Plan – the foundation on which our conservation efforts are built. You can get involved and help us to resource and build capacity within these Branches to take conservation action – often to prevent the last of a plant species being lost forever.
Latest CREW News
Succulent plant crisis
Ex-situ plant collections
Monday to Friday 08h30 to 16h00. Closed on weekends and public holidays.
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