Summary This area consists of 87 private farms in the Belfast-Dullstroom region. The area lies on the central South African plateau, and consists primarily of rolling high-altitude grassland interspersed with rocky outcrops. Lakensvleispruit is a very important wetland, and the northern portion, known as Middelpunt Vlei, hosts the threatened and highly specialised White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi.
Site description This large area consists of c.150 private farms in the Belfast-Dullstroom region. The Belfast District border defines the northern, eastern and western limits of the site. The Middelburg–Belfast–Lydenburg road forms the southern boundary. The area lies on the central South African plateau, and it consists primarily of rolling high-altitude grassland (1,700–2,100 m), interspersed with rocky outcrops. North of Dullstroom, the southern portion of the Steenkampsberg, with peaks up to 2,274 m, breaks the rolling plateau grasslands. Within the Steenkampsberg area, two wetland systems are particularly important: (1) Lakensvleispruit (25°35’S 30°05’E) lies 8 km north-east of Belfast. This area is deeply flooded. The critically important northern edge of the vlei, known as Middelpunt (25°32’S 30°07’E), is dominated by reed Phragmites on permanently saturated to flooded ground. In some areas there are large tracts of virtually uniform sedge Carex, particularly at the vlei’s north-eastern end. (2) Verloren Valei, lying c.9 km north of Dullstroom, comprises a large area of scattered wetland patches. The wetlands have mainly short vegetation, predominantly grasses, forbs and short sedges less than 50–60 cm tall. Some marshy depressions hold patches of Typha, various Scirpus and Pycreus and taller sedges. Moist, sandy highveld grassland is found to the south-west of Belfast. The remainder of the area is covered by north-eastern mountain grassland, especially along the Steenkampsberg towards Dullstroom. The area also supports a wide variety of forbs and ferns, including many South African endemics. Rocky slopes, gullies and ravines favour the development of thickets dominated by Leucosidea.
Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Lakensvleispruit is a very important wetland, and the northern portion, known as Middelpunt Vlei, is one of the few sites in the world where Sarothrura ayresi is regularly recorded. This species favours patches of dry to moist Carex-dominated marsh, including areas intermixed with scattered single stems of Phragmites, in shallowly flooded, dense marsh vegetation, 0.5–1.5 m tall. It also occurs in taller, more deeply flooded, dense vegetation. Crex crex has been recorded here occasionally. Several pairs of Grus carunculatus frequent the Steenkampsberg area, especially at Verloren Valei. Grus paradisea and Balearica regulorum are widespread at low densities, although populations are greatly reduced compared to the mid-1980s.The grassland in the surrounding area, especially at Verloren Valei Nature Reserve, supports Heteromirafra ruddi, which is highly localized within open, moderately to heavily grazed, level grassland. Anthus chloris is fairly common in mid-altitude, well-developed, lightly grazed grassland. Geronticus calvus breeds at two colonies within the IBA, and birds roost and forage throughout the area. Neotis denhami, Eupodotis senegalensis and Vanellus melanopterus are found throughout the region. On exposed outcrops and rocky slopes at higher altitude, Geocolaptes olivaceus, Saxicola bifasciata and Monticola explorator are found. Promerops gurneyi is found in the vicinity of proteoid woodland on the escarpment. Occasionally, migrants such as Falco naumanni, Circus maurus and C. macrourus are found within the area.
Non-bird biodiversity: North-eastern mountain grassland holds 78 endemic and near-endemic plant species on the Black Reef quartzites, several of which species are present within this site, including Zantedeschia pentlandii and Gladiolus cataractarum. The global range of the cycad Encephalartos humilis is restricted to this site and the surrounding districts.
References Allan et al. (1997), Batchelor (1984), Bloem (1988), de Wet (1991), Hockey et al. (1988), Kotze and Taylor (1995), Kotze et al. (1994), Tarboton (1984a,b,c, 1995b, 1997a,b,c), Tarboton and Johnson (1992), Taylor (1994, 1997a,b).
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BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Steenkampsberg. Downloaded from
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