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Location South Africa, Northern Cape
Central coordinates 20o 20.00' East  28o 35.00' South
IBA criteria A3
Area 25,900 ha
Altitude 582 - 914m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary The Augrabies Falls National Park is situated on the vast Bushmanland peneplain where it straddles the Orange River. The IBA falls within the Nama-Karoo Biome, with arid grasslands and open karroid thornveld present on the plains, and the rocky hills covered in a sparse vegetation type known as hardeveld.

Site description The Augrabies Falls National Park is situated on the vast Bushmanland peneplain where it straddles the Orange river, c.380 km inland of Alexander Bay. Between Kakamas and the Augrabies Falls, a distance of c.35 km, the river flows through a wide, flat, cultivated valley. From the 146-m-high falls at the park headquarters it meanders down a deep, narrow gorge for several kilometres before reaching the level surface of the surrounding plains once again. The rest of the park is flat with low relief, scattered with large rounded domes. Drainage channels are sandy, gravelly and dry and are mostly very shallow, or occasionally deeper with rocky sides and broad beds. The area is classed as an arid to semi-arid cold desert.The park’s vegetation comprises mainly Orange river Nama-Karoo, typically with trees and shrubs of Sarcostemma, Acacia, Rhus, Salix, Rhigozum, Boscia and Cadaba, and succulents (Aloe, Euphorbia) on the steep, rocky mountain-slopes. In the riverbeds, sandy deposits occasionally form islands that hold a tall open grassland. Upstream of the falls, the Orange river is a braided stream with much fine alluvial sand and silt forming complex islands, which hold gallery forest along the river arms, dominated by Ziziphus, Euclea, Maytenus, Rhus, Acacia and Tamarix, with Lycium and Diospyros in the shrub layer. Phragmites grows in patches along the river. In the gorges downstream of the waterfall Ficus grows sparsely on the rocks.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. A total of 195 species have been recorded in the park. Despite the low diversity, the park is important for many biome-restricted assemblage birds, as well as a host of other arid-zone species. The lowland plains are particularly good for large wide-ranging species such as Polemaetus bellicosus, Ardeotis kori, Neotis ludwigii and Eupodotis vigorsii. The plains also support Certhilauda albescens, Cercomela schlegelii, C. tractrac, C. sinuata and Malcorus pectoralis. Serinus alario occurs wherever there is seeding grass and water. The belts of riverine Acacia woodland hold Cercotrichas coryphaeus, C. paena, Phragmacia substriata, Sylvia layardi, Bradornis mariquensis, Sporopipes squamifrons and Agapornis roseicollis and provide food, shelter and breeding habitat for many other species. Large trees occasionally support the massive Philetairus socius nests with the associated Polihierax semitorquatus frequently in attendance. In very wet years nomadic Eremopterix australis move in and breed in large numbers, and are then absent until the next heavy rains, which can be decades apart. Onychognathus nabouroup, Apus bradfieldi and the secretive and localized Euryptila subcinnamomea occur in the river’s steep gorges and associated rocky kloofs.

Non-bird biodiversity: Among plants, the distinctive southern African endemic Aloe dichotoma is common within the park. The permanently flowing sections of the river support two important fish species, the Vaal-Orange river endemic Austroglanis sclateri (DD) and Barbus hospes (LR/nt), which is restricted to the Orange river below the Augrabies Falls. Among herptiles, this is the only protected area in the world supporting the endemic frog Phrynomerus annectens and the lizard Platysaurus broadleyi; the latter is restricted to the lower Orange river valley between Augrabies and Pella. The threatened mammal Diceros bicornis (CR) was reintroduced to the park in 1985.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Ludwig's Bustard Neotis ludwigii resident  1998  present  A3  Endangered 
Karoo Bustard Heterotetrax vigorsii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Karoo Lark Certhilauda albescens resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Stark's Lark Eremalauda starki resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-eared Sparrow-lark Eremopterix australis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Namaqua Warbler Phragmacia substriata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kopje Warbler Euryptila subcinnamomea resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Layard's Warbler Sylvia layardi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Pale-winged Starling Onychognathus nabouroup resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sicklewing Chat Cercomela sinuata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Karoo Chat Cercomela schlegelii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Tractrac Chat Cercomela tractrac resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-headed Canary Serinus alario resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2014 high unfavourable high
Habitat
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - agro-industry farming 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 small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Climate change and severe weather drought likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather storms and floods likely in long term (beyond 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather temperature extremes happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Energy production and mining renewable energy happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
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
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - dams (size unknown) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - herbicides and pesticides happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - nutrient loads happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors utility & service lines happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low

Forest Woodland - riparian  0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable
Grassland Grassland - Semi-desert  0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable
Rocky areas Inselbergs, kopjes & inland cliffs  0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable
Rocky areas Scree, boulders & bare rock  0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Most of site (50-90%) covered (including the most critical parts for important bird species)  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  The conservation measures needed for the site are being comprehensively and effectively implemented  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Augrabies Falls National Park 55,361 protected area contains site 25,900  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Shrubland - dwarf Karroo  -
Artificial - terrestrial   2%
Grassland Grassland - Semi-desert  97%
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  -
Rocky areas Inselbergs, kopjes & inland cliffs; Scree, boulders & bare rock  -
Forest Woodland - riparian  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture -
tourism/recreation -
nature conservation and research 100%

References Leistner (1967), Leistner and Werger (1973), Low and Rebelo (1996), Rautenbach et al. (1979), Werger (1973).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Augrabies Falls National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/08/2015

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