Insect conservation in South africa: An overview
Although insects have a long tradition of use and appreciation in South Africa, insect conservation in the country dates back to 1976 with the first formal protection of a group of butterfly species. Today South Africa has a strong insect conservation research record, with significant contributions from both professional and amateur entomologists. This activity has in a number of instances led to insect conservation management actions. As in many other parts of the world, threats to arthropod diversity include rapid rates of land transformation in the form of, for example, overgrazing, soil erosion, urbanization, deforestation, the expansion of exotic plantations and invasive species. The impact of exotic and invasive flora is of particular concern in rare and restricted habitat types, such as high-altitude montane grassland. Initiatives aimed at promoting the cause, and improving the status, of insect conservation in South Africa include the identification of bioindicators, ecological landscaping, the conservation of insects in urban environments, as well as the mapping of species distributions to include insects in procedures for the identification of priority areas for conservation. Species that are extensively used as primary resources, such as mopane worms and wild silk moths, pose particular challenges to insect conservation in South Africa. In addition to long-term socioeconomic stability, the future of insect conservation in South Africa lies in national coordination of research and implementation initiatives, as well as continued financial support and the prioritization of conservation and research activities in the country.