The Vulnerability Index has been recognised internationally as an important contributor to conservation in the fynbos biome.

This Index is a key component of the Flower Valley Sustainable Harvesting Programme. It’s used to guide wild harvesting of fynbos across the Agulhas Plain.

Now the role the Vulnerability Index plays in protecting fynbos against inappropriate harvesting practices has featured in the scientific journal, ‘Journal of Environmental Planning and Management’. The article was compiled by Dr David Bek of Coventry University, Sean Privett and Flower Valley’s Acting Executive Director, Roger Bailey (among others).

“The Vulnerability Index is a pioneering initiative which draws upon existing botanical knowledge to develop locally nuanced guidance as to the vulnerability of fynbos species to harvesting,” the authors write. 

“As such, the Vulnerability Index is an important contribution to conservation in South Africa, whilst it will also support the long-term sustainability of the wildflower harvesting industry.”

The paper adds that it sets important precedents for other wild harvesting industries, such as harvesting for medicinal purposes and horticultural collections, and how these should be regulated.

This Index was developed by a team of botanists, who looked at 150 harvestable fynbos species.


It differs from the Red List in two ways:

1. It focuses specifically on the risks posed by harvesting;

2. It focuses only on natural species populations in the Agulhas Plain. 

According to Dr Bek, that makes it a powerful resource, “This Index is different because it shows how vulnerable each species is to harvesting – based on biological and geographical attributes.” 

In fact, during the development of the Index, 52 of the 150 species were immediately designated as ‘no-go’ species for harvesting. Dr Bek says, “That shows that more than one third of all the species assessed in this exercise are at significant risk, with the potential to become locally extinct through harvesting.”

He adds, “This highlights the precarious state of the fynbos biome as a whole.”

The challenge is that many of these no-go species are not considered as threatened in the Red List categorization, given the different set of measurements, he says.

Currently CapeNature makes use of both the Red List and the Vulnerability Index when issuing permits for harvesting in the wild in the Agulhas Plain.

The authors now recommend that the Index be rolled out in other harvesting areas in the fynbos biome. Dr Beks says, “We also urge that the principles underpinning the Vulnerability Index are institutionalized in the regulatory spaces of conservation in South Africa, and are shared across the globe.”

To read the full paper, click here.