The Global Conservation Consortium for Erica brings together the world’s Erica experts, conservationists, and the botanic garden community to ensure that no wild species of Erica becomes extinct.
The Global Conservation Consortium for Erica has been established to bring together the world’s Erica experts, conservationists and the botanic garden community. The aim: to deploy their unique sets of skills for effective conservation of the genus in order to prevent species extinctions.
With well over 800 species, Erica, the heaths or heathers, is a plant genus of huge diversity that lends its name to the habitats in which it is found: the heathlands; the Latin word erica means “heath”. The heaths are an ecologically important genus, supplying a diverse range of ecosystem functions, including providing food to a wide range of fauna. They are used across the world for their beauty, both as cut flowers and in ornamental horticulture, as well as more practical purposes such as making brooms, baskets and even, historically, buildings.
Erica species have a centre of diversity in the small but botanically megadiverse Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. Their distribution extends through tropical Africa and Madagascar, to the Mediterranean basin and Europe. Across this range they are threatened, suffering the immediate impacts of habitat destruction, invasive species, changes in natural fire regimes and climate change. Their diversity brings with it a complex and unique set of conservation challenges, for which fundamental research is needed to better understand the species and prioritise action, making options to safeguard them for future generations.
Astonishingly, almost 700 Erica species are concentrated in the CFR. All are regional endemics, and typically for Cape plant groups many show striking local variation, some of which is formally described under distinct subspecies and varieties. Of 944 such taxa currently included in the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s Red List, 108 are classified as rare, a further 84 as Vulnerable, 60 Endangered, and 46 Critically Endangered. Three are already extinct in the wild. Over a hundred more are ‘Data Deficient’ – species with populations insufficiently known to be able to estimate the degree of threat to their survival.
The Global Conservation Consortium for Erica is led by:
Bergen University Gardens
For questions or more information, or if you are interested in learning more about current GCC for Erica activities please contact Mike Pirie, GCC for Erica Coordinator.
The GCC Erica is currently divided into the following operational regions:
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) lists 944 Erica taxa. Species richness is highest to the south-west of the Western Cape, but regional endemism is high across the range including in the Drakensberg mountains in eastern South Africa. The Red List of South African Plants lists 84 taxa as Vulnerable, 60 as Endangered, 46 as Critically Endangered and three as Extinct in the Wild, with 118 species considered Data Deficient.
There are around 23 Erica species native to tropical Africa, some with widespread distributions and local endemic subspecific taxa, and all restricted to isolated temperate zones in the high mountains particularly of East Africa. They are in need of conservation assessment.
Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands
There are around 40 Erica species native to Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands. Most of the species are endemic to Madagascar, but taxonomic revision is needed to reassess species diversity and enable conservation assessments.
Europe and Mediterranean basin
Europe and the Mediterranean basin are home to around 21 Erica species. Threatened species include E. maderensis, which is assessed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.