What is biodiversity | Sappi

Biodiversity is the variety of species (plants, micro-organisms and animals) in a particular habitat. The more species in a habitat, the better! 

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity refers to the variety of species (plants, micro-organisms and animals) in a particular habitat.

'Eco-system services' are crucial to humans on a global scale. Eco-systems provide humans with food, mitigate climate change and remove pollutants. For example, the earth's biosphere provides a major global carbon sink, which offsets our fossil fuel emissions. Biodiversity ensures the maintenance of this system. Without this sink, climate change would take place at a rate far greater than we are experiencing today. 

Biodiversity in South Africa

Did you know? South Africa's biodiversity is amongst the highest in the world. 

South Africa's biodiversity plays a big role in our tourism industry. Every year, thousands of people come to our country to see our diversity of wildlife, plant life and to explore our seas. Although there is an indication of biodiversity loss, our government has put laws into place that attempt to protect our diversity from further decline. 

Fun fact: In 2001, the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology stated that even though South Africa compromises only 1% of the world's land area, we accommodate approximately 10% of all known fish, plant and bird species.


Sappi and biodiversity

Sappi is extremely mindful of the natural resources on which it depends. 

The vitality of our stands of trees is dependent on biological processes such as soil regeneration, nutrient cycling, pollination, decomposition and predator prey relationships. In addition, the landscapes in which we grow trees in rely on biological processes to function. Approximately one third of Sappi's landholdings are managed for biodiversity through conservation. 

Alien plant eradication

Invasive alien plants (IAPS) are widely considered as a major threat to biodiversity, human livelihoods and economic development.

Currently, there are 379 species of plants listed as IAPs in South Africa. As a result of their high diversity and far-reaching distribution, they are extremely difficult to control. 

Sappi combats IAPS by:

  • Implementing weed control programmes
  • Managing natural areas to maintain healthy vegetation (weeds generally spread into poorly managed areas), and
  • Reducing sources and avenues of seed dispersal.

Sappi's strategy for managing biodiversity

  • Ongoing assessment and monitoring of veld conditions.
  • Protection of sites from poaching, illegal medicinal plan collection and overgrazing.
  • Managing natural vegetation according to best practice in terms of burning, grazing and weed control to ensure healthy habitats.
  • Participating in the national stewardship programme through which Sappi has six declared nature reserves and is in the process of having a seventh proclaimed.
  • Providing the Endangered Wildlife Trust with feedback on the numbers and locations of various species from landowners. 
  • Long-term integrated weed management plans on all of our plantations.


Sappi uses the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) certification system, amongst others, to assure consumers that the land we own and lease is sustainably managed. This also applies to any other land from which we procure wood. Unfortunately, only about 10% of the world's forests are certified to a credible standard. However, Sappi's owned and leased plantations are 100% FSC®-certified and 83.1% of the wood supplied to Sappi in Southern Africa is certified. The rest is procured from known and controlled sources. 

Fun fact: Forest certifications evaluate the quality of management from environmental, social and economic perspectives against a series of agreed standards. The system combines auditing forest practices with tracing forest products. These certification systems are an important tool for allaying fears about biodiversity loss.