The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) represents one of the 35 Global Biodiversity Hotspots recognised by Conservation International – areas supporting unusually high concentrations of unique species, but also under extreme levels of threat. While best known for its diverse and unique plants collectively called ‘Fynbos’, the freshwater fishes swimming the rivers flowing through the region also exhibit very high levels of endemism (species unique to the area), with 20 of the region’s 23 freshwater fishes found nowhere else on the planet. Sadly, several of these fishes face a serious threat of extinction in the near future, with 14 of the 20 endemic species currently listed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. Reasons behind this precarious situation include habitat degradation, pollution, water abstraction and impacts from invasive species. The final straw may be the added threat of climate change which could tip some species over the edge of extinction in the near future. To bend back the curve of biodiversity loss in our catchments we must find a way to become better custodians of aquatic ecosystems - our freshwater fishes and our own survival and wellbeing depend on it now more than ever.
All images by Jeremy Shelton
Clanwilliam sawfin (Pseudobarbus serra) in the Matjies River, Cederberg
Breede River redfins in pollution
The Biedouw River in the Cederberg, showing blackly larvae (Simuliidae) clinging to the rock and filter-feeding
Cape kurper (Sandelia capensis) in a small, clear tributary in Du Toits Kloof
Breede River redfin minnows (Pseudobarbus burchelli) in Bainskloof
Pool in the Rondegat River, Algeria, Cederberg full of fynbos fish