Sites - Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
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Barberspan and Leeupan
South Africa, North-West Province
25o 36.00' East 26o 33.00' South
A1, A4i, A4ii, A4iii
Year of IBA assessment
BirdLife South Africa
Summary Barberspan is a large (6 x 4 km), permanent, shallow alkaline lake, which has its own small catchment of 30 km2. The IBA includes the nearby Leeupan, which is connected to Barberspan via a narrow channel.
Site description Situated 15 km north-east of Delareyville, these two pans, along with Klippan, are in a closed basin at 1,350 m. Barberspan is a large (6 × 4 km), permanent, shallow (max. depth 11 m), alkaline lake, which has its own small catchment of 30 km². It is the largest of a series of pans in the fossil bed of the Paleo-Harts river. The lake is fed by the Harts river and is situated in open flat grassland that can be described as a great undulating plain, much of which is cultivated for summer crops, such as maize, sunflowers and groundnuts. The nearby Leeupan is connected to Barberspan via a narrow channel. Leeupan is saline, shallow, and is subject to considerable fluctuations in water-level, drying up in most winters. This often results in conditions that are favourable for some wetland species but adverse for others.
The marginal vegetation is comprised primarily of rushes and sedges, especially Juncus and Cyperus. Aquatic vegetation is dominated by Potamogeton. Located at the ecotone of three biomes, the terrestrial vegetation consists of dry sandy highveld grassland, with Karoo invaders, and clumps of well-developed Kalahari thornveld (thickets of Acacia, Rhus and Diospyros) scattered throughout.
Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. More than 320 bird species have been recorded at the site and in the surrounding nature reserve. Barberspan is particularly important as a drought refuge and a moulting site for waterbirds, which congregate in large numbers (exceeding 20,000 individuals) during the dry season (April–October) when all the small wetlands in the surrounding districts have dried up completely. All but one of South Africa’s indigenous duck species have been recorded here. The waterbirds disperse to breed in sheltered temporary pans and vleis once the summer rains arrive. Breeding species include Charadrius pallidus and Sterna caspia, which occur sporadically at low densities. Fulica cristata almost
always breed in huge numbers: once over 12,000 breeding pairs were recorded.Barberspan is also vitally important for regionally nomadic waterbirds and as a stop-over site for Palearctic migrant waders. The water-level determines which species are present on the pans. When low, conditions are suitable for large numbers of waders. In wet years, the shoreline consists of mainly inundated grassland, which results in large numbers of herons, egrets and Podiceps cristatus moving in to breed. During the austral summer, the adjacent Barberspan Nature Reserve supports many migrant Falco naumanni, while resident Cercomela sinuata, Cercotrichas paena, Laniarius atrococcineus and Malcorus pectoralis breed here.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.