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Location South Africa, Free State,KwaZulu-Natal,Mpumalanga
Central coordinates 30o 1.00' East  27o 15.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i, A4ii, A4iii
Area 1,050,000 ha
Altitude 1,700 - 2,291m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Site description This vast area is centred on the towns of Volksrust and Wakkerstroom. The proposed Biosphere Reserve comprises some 800 private farms, several municipalities and conservancies and a considerable amount of state-owned land. The site comprises gentle rolling hills on the South African plateau (1,700–1,800 m) that are broken regularly by parts of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg escarpment, small ranges such as the Gemsbokberg (2,095 m), Versamelberg (2,139 m) and Balelesberg (2,055 m), and higher peaks around Wakkerstroom, such as Ntshele (2,291 m), Ossewakop (2,170 m), Kanonkop (2,112 m) and KwaMandlangampisi (2,266 m). The area covers several catchments and holds many perennial rivers and wetlands.

The following wetlands are of international importance and deserve the highest possible conservation attention. Wakkerstroom vlei (27°22’S 30°07’E), which lies on the border of the town, is a marsh, predominantly a mosaic of Carex and Leersia stands. Seekoeivlei (27°35’S 29°35’E), a Ramsar Site, is situated in the north-eastern Free State, 500 m from the town of Memel. It consists of a flood-plain holding numerous seasonally flooded oxbow lakes, which are drained by the Klip river, a tributary of the Vaal. Heyshope Dam (27°00’S 30°30’E), a proposed Ramsar Site, is a large impoundment in the Assegaai river catchment of south-eastern Mpumalanga. The privately owned Vanger Natural Heritage Site (27°52’S 29°40’E) lies about 30 km south-east of Memel. Blood river vlei (27°47’S 30°35’E) is situated 20 km south-west of Vryheid.

Several other small important wetlands are scattered throughout the IBA. The terrestrial vegetation is dominated by some of the finest rolling grasslands remaining in South Africa. The most dominant grassland-type is moist sandy highveld grassland. The eastern boundary of the proposed Biosphere Reserve holds north-eastern mountain grassland. Small patches of moist clay highveld grassland grow on the black vertic clays that are scattered throughout the area, mostly in and around the Wielspruit catchment. Rocky slopes, gullies and ravines favour the development of thickets dominated by Leucosidea, which forms dense monospecific stands in places. Particularly in the Pongola Bush Nature Reserve, Ncundu Bush Nature Reserve and several privately owned areas along the escarpment, the thicket has developed into Afromontane forest, holding trees of Podocarpus, Rhus, Trichocladus, Curtisia, Halleria and Kiggelaria.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Maccoa Duck Oxyura maccoa non-breeding  100-500 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Maccoa Duck Oxyura maccoa breeding  50-150 breeding pairs  A4i  Near Threatened 
White-backed Duck Thalassornis leuconotus non-breeding  100-500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
White-backed Duck Thalassornis leuconotus breeding  50-150 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
African Black Duck Anas sparsa non-breeding  400-1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata non-breeding  10,000-30,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata breeding  5,000-10,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Cape Shoveler Anas smithii non-breeding  200-600 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Southern Pochard Netta erythrophthalma non-breeding  500-1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis non-breeding  1,000-5,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis breeding  200-2,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus non-breeding  200-500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus breeding  100-200 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis non-breeding  100-250 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis breeding  50-100 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Black Stork Ciconia nigra non-breeding  10-30 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black Stork Ciconia nigra breeding  3-10 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus breeding  1998  500 breeding pairs  unknown  A1, A3, A4i  Vulnerable 
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus non-breeding  1,000-4,000 individuals  A4i  Vulnerable 
Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash non-breeding  1,000-10,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash breeding  500-5,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni winter  1,000-5,000 individuals  A1, A4ii  Least Concern 
Mountain Buzzard Buteo oreophilus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi non-breeding  1998  30-70 individuals  A1, A4i  Critically Endangered 
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Corncrake Crex crex winter  present  A1  Least Concern 
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata breeding  12,000-18,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata non-breeding  25,000-60,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus resident  common  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus breeding  100-200 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus non-breeding  200-500 individuals  A4i  Vulnerable 
Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus breeding  300-500 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus non-breeding  1,000-1,300 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus melanopterus non-breeding  500-1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Snipe Gallinago nigripennis breeding  500-1,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
African Snipe Gallinago nigripennis non-breeding  1,000-3,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni winter  1,000-5,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus winter  2,500-10,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus resident  present  A1  Least Concern 
Olive Bush-shrike Telophorus olivaceus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 
Botha's Lark Spizocorys fringillaris resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
African Scrub-warbler Bradypterus barratti resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chorister Robin-chat Cossypha dichroa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Least Concern 
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 
Forest Canary Serinus scotops resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds non-breeding  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve 16,618 protected area contained by site 4,416  
Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 4,754 protected area contained by site 4,754  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Wakkerstrrom Site Support Group 2007

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Grassland - edaphic, wet  -
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral pools and wetlands; Rivers & streams  -
Forest Montane forest - mixed  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry 10%
nature conservation and research 3%
water management 1%
agriculture -
nature conservation and research 6%

Other biodiversity North-eastern mountain grassland holds 78 endemic and near-endemic plant species on the Black Reef quartzites, and there are a further 31 endemics on dry dolomite. Most of these endemics are present within the site. Many endemic animals also occur here.

References Allan et al. (1983, 1997), Cowan and Marneweck (1996), de Wet (1991), Herholdt and Grobler (1987), Hockey et al. (1988), Kotze et al. (1994), Pocock and Uys (1967), Stoltz and Geyser (1973), Tarboton (1984c, 1992, 1995a,b, 1997a,b,c), Tarboton et al. (1987), Taylor (1994, 1997a,b).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Grasslands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/07/2014

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