5. Sectors‎ > ‎

Biodiversity and Environment


Biodiversity Sector Summary

Biodiversity refers to the diversity of life on earth which includes animal and plant species as well as the ecosystems where they live. South Africa is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world and biodiversity plays an important role in the provision of goods and services. Healthy ecosystems provide us with various natural resources and free ecosystem services which are central for human wellbeing. These services include water supply and regulation, soil provision, food production, recreational and cultural opportunities, and the provision of materials for sustainable livelihoods. These services are particularly important for rural dwellers who directly rely on the environment for sources of fuel, raw materials for crafts and building, clean water, fertile soil as well as medicine.  

Climate Change impacts on Biodiversity

South Africa’s biodiversity is currently under pressure due to land use change, land degradation, and the invasion of alien species. Increasing temperatures, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and changing rainfall patterns are projected to place further pressure on our natural ecosystems impacting on fauna and flora species’ distribution. 
The South African Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) report highlights these potential climate change impacts on the biodiversity sector:
  1. Loss of High Priority Biomes and areas of biodiversity importance.
  2. Increased impacts and loss of threatened ecosystems due to changes in climate.
  3. Degradation of natural habitat and loss of biodiversity due to significant land use change will impact on the ability of natural ecosystems to respond to climate change.
  4. Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature are likely to have an impact on wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide.

Vulnerability Assessment in the Biodiversity and Environment Sector

Climate Change Vulnerability is assessed by identifying a set of climate change indicators or impacts and then assessing your exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity to these indicators. The following sections provide a summary on how to conduct this assessment specifically for the Biodiversity and Environment Sector.

Step 1: Develop Climate Change Indicators

The first step in a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment is to develop a set of indicators. Indicators are a list of potential impacts that may take place in your area as a result of climate change. The LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit has developed a draft range of indicators using the Long Term Adaptation Scenario Reports. The indicators have been grouped into sectors. This page deals specifically with the Biodiversity and Environment and the list of indicators are provided in the tables below.

Step 2: Assess your Exposure to the Indicators 

The second step of a vulnerability assessment is to determine whether a particular indicator is relevant. This is termed "Exposure". Exposure is whether or not a particular impact will take place in your area.

The table below lists various indicators and links to materials to determine whether you are potentially at risk (exposed) to the impact. This is generally a "Yes/No" question. 



Record your answers here and make note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Yes" to.

Step 3: Assess your Sensitivity to the Indicators 

The third step of the vulnerability assessment asks the question, "if you are exposed, how important is the potential impact?" This is termed "sensitivity" and is generally assessed by a scale (e.g 1 to 5 or High, Medium, Low). For the purpose of the LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Sensitivity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Sensitivity Considerations" to help assess how sensitive you are to particular impacts.



Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Medium or High" to.

Step 4: Assess your Adaptive Capacity to the Indicators


The forth step in the vulnerability assessment asks the question: "If there are going to be significant impacts due to climate change, do you have the systems (policy, resources, social capital) to respond to the change?". The IPCC defines Adaptive Capacity as the "ability of a system to adjust to climate change to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences".


For the purpose of the LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Adaptive Capacity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Adaptive Capacity Question" which is "Do you have high, medium or low adaptive capacity (policy, institutional, social and finance) to respond to the change?".



Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Low or Medium" to.

Step 5: Develop Response Plans for Priority Indicators

Once you have completed the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity assessments, short-list the indicators that you have the following answers for:

  • Exposure - Yes 
  • Sensitivity - High or Medium 
  • Adaptive Capacity - Low or Medium 

These short-listed indicators are the indicators that you are most vulnerable to. You will now need to develop a response plan to deal with these vulnerabilities. The LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit includes generic responses plan for each sector (here). You can use these templates as a starting point for developing your own sector response plan.

Key Responses to Climate Change in the Biodiversity Sector

The environment plays a key role in providing natural assets and ecosystem services for human wellbeing, and it is crucial that Biodiversity is prioritised in national climate change adaptation efforts. Additionally, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) needs to ensure policy enforcement and implementation from national down to municipal level.

Role of National Departments

Biodiversity and the environment are currently prioritised in national climate change adaptation efforts. In 2014, the DEA developed a biodiversity sector climate change response strategy which highlighted adaptation options for the sector and emphasised the importance of Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) as part of an overall adaptation strategy. Consequently, in 2015, the DEA in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), developed Climate Change Adaptation Plans for South African Biomes. Also in 2015, the DEA revised the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). The vision of the NBSAP is to conserve, manage and sustainably use biodiversity, while ensuring equitable benefits to South African communities. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the DEA are currently working on an EbA strategic framework and overarching implementation plan for the period: 2016 – 2021. This includes pilot projects, research, and the mainstreaming and communication of EbA. The DEA carries the responsibility of channelling the implementation of national adaptation policies, down to provincial and local levels. Within this context, possible role players and biodiversity responses at the local level are highlighted below:

Role of Councillors

  • Spearhead biodiversity and environment management efforts within the municipality, with a strong focus on community awareness raising. 
  • Ensure that biodiversity and environment related climate change risks are considered during the integrated development plan (IDP) review and associated project planning processes. 
  • Support municipal budget allocation to climate change related interventions. 

Role of Municipal Administration

  • Develop and implement enabling strategies and plans relating to biodiversity and ecosystem management. 
  • Develop EbA programmes and adaptation plans promoting ecosystem restoration and maintenance, and improved livelihoods. 
  • Ensure that EbA and biodiversity considerations are integrated into development planning and implementation at the local government level. 
  • Strengthen institutional arrangements to further develop Expanded Public Works Programmes for building ecosystem and community resilience through the removal of invasive alien plants, restoration of wetlands, controlling wildfires, and other sustainability programmes. 
  • Enhance incentive mechanisms to support landowners along priority catchments, to improve land management practices, protect ecosystems and enhance productivity. 
  • Prioritise: low cost approaches with multiple benefits; integrating adaptation and mitigation responses; and making use of indigenous knowledge. 
  • Increase biodiversity benefits while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through: reforestation and restoration of ecosystems; managing soil carbon and invasive alien species; implementing integrated crop and livestock management solutions; and improving the management of emissions from livestock and crop production. 
  • Encourage and promote the restoration of catchment areas and effective land-use planning programmes. 
  • Implementing efficient biodiversity stewardship programmes can assist in achieving connectivity between core biodiversity and ecosystem services areas. 


Role of Individuals

  • Work together with the municipality in finding solutions for identified risks in the municipality. 
  • Play an active role in sustainable water resource use and management practices, such as maintenance and climate-resilient restoration of ecosystem services. 
  • Sustainable farming systems including integrated crop and livestock management. 
  • Consider community-based forestry and the diversification of livelihood skills. 
  • Consider establishing household rainwater harvesting systems. 
  • Consider the use of greywater or harvested rainwater to support small scale community or household gardening. 
  • Avoid littering into or near natural water sources such as streams and rivers. 
  • Take initiative and report the polluting of streams, rivers and other ecosystems. 

Responses per Indicator



References Material 

Use the following reference material to help assess your vulnerability to the criteria listed above

Biomes Map
Ecoregions Map
Threatened Ecosystems Map
LTAS Phase 1 - Climate and Impacts Factsheet Series - Factsheet 7 of 7 - Climate Change And Biodiversity