email a friend
printable version
Location South Africa, Mpumalanga
Central coordinates 30o 4.00' East  25o 21.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i, A4ii
Area 100,000 ha
Altitude 1,700 - 2,274m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus resident  1998  30-40 breeding pairs  unknown  A1, A3, A4i  Vulnerable 
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus winter  100-350 individuals  A4i  Vulnerable 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni winter  1,000-3,000 individuals  A1, A4ii  Least Concern 
White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi winter  1998  6-12 individuals  A1, A4i  Critically Endangered 
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus resident  4 breeding pairs  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus resident  present  A1  Least Concern 
Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 
Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Least Concern 
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high unfavourable low
Habitat
Unknown

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - shifting agriculture happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - nomadic grazing happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Agriculture and aquaculture marine and freshwater aquaculture - subsistence/artisinal aquaculture happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Energy production and mining oil and gas drilling likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases problematic native species/diseases - named species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - small dams happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution air-borne pollutants - smog happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution domestic & urban waste water - sewage likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution excess energy - light pollution happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution excess energy - noise pollution happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution garbage & solid waste likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Grassland Grassland - highveld  0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable
Wetlands (inland) Riverine floodplains  0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Verloren Valei Provincial Nature Reserve 5,990 protected area contained by site 5,922  
Verloren Valei Nature Reserve Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 5,891 protected area contained by site 5,891  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Grassland - highveld  -
Wetlands (inland) Riverine floodplains  -
Forest   100%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry 60%
nature conservation and research 4%
water management 10%

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).

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Steenkampsberg. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/08/2015

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife