A botanical ground truthing investigation for an international client undertaken by CES, a business unit of NEXTEC, for a proposed development located near Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) within the Eastern Cape Province, recently uncovered a large population of Rhombophyllum rhomboideum (R. rhomboideum).
R. rhomboideum is an Endangered succulent species with an Extent of Occurrence (EOO) of approximately 102 km². Currently, only four locations of this species are known, and it is possible that the population uncovered during the ground truthing investigation is a new and unrecorded fifth location. The identification of this species was confirmed by a representative from Rhodes University’s Schonland Herbarium, who has shown interest in conducting further studies on the newly identified population. Unfortunately, urban and industrial development within and around Port Elizabeth had resulted in the rapid loss in habitat for this range restricted species. The South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI) recommendation for Species of Conservation Concern (SCC) listed as Endangered specifies that no further loss of habitat should be permitted as the species is likely to go extinct in the near future if current pressures continue. As such, all remaining subpopulations must therefore be conserved if this species is to survive in the long term. Following the findings of this species within the development footprint, consultation with the developer and CES has resulted in the redesign and repositioning of infrastructure layouts to avoid the loss of R. rhomboideum individuals within the development site and to ensure the conservation of this species in situ. The findings and outcomes of this study has proved the value of these investigations in ensuring a development which is environmentally sustainable.