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Location South Africa, Free State,North-West Province
Central coordinates 25o 45.00' East  27o 40.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 55,372 ha
Altitude 1,228 - 1,271m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary The reserves lie on the Free State/North-West Province border, surrounding the Bloemhof Dam, an impoundment on the Vaal River. Sandveld Nature Reserve protects a remnant patch of the eastern form of Kalahari Thornveld. The Kalahari Thornveld in this region previously covered a much greater area. The dam regularly supports more than 5 000 waterfowl and sometimes more than 10 000 birds.

Site description The reserves lie on the Free State/North-west Province border, surrounding the Bloemhof Dam, an impoundment on the Vaal river. Sandveld Nature Reserve protects a remnant patch of the eastern form of Kalahari Thornveld, which projects into the grassland biome. The Kalahari Thornveld in this region previously covered a much greater area. The central portion of the reserve supports some excellent dense stands of Acacia savanna with Brachiaria as a co-dominant. The remainder of the reserve is dominated by open short grassveld, with clumps of Tarchonanthus and small thickets of Ziziphus, Rhus and Acacia scattered throughout.

There are also extensive areas which, in the past, were cleared for grazing or cultivation; these open areas persist in the reserve either as open grassland or regenerating woodland. There is also an area of previously intensely overgrazed grassland, where karroid vegetation has invaded. Most of the reserve is very flat; there are a few low koppies and ridges, covered mainly with hillside bush of Olea and Rhus. Although the level of Bloemhof Dam can show large fluctuations, there are also times when it remains low for extended periods because the Vaal Dam, upstream, captures the major part of the catchment waters. Pans form under these conditions, and the exposed dam basin is colonized by grasses and extensive stands of annuals.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. The dam regularly supports more than 5,000 waterbirds and it has once supported more than 10,000 individuals. At times, when the water-level is low, islands and aquatic vegetation become exposed, making the system highly productive and suitable for many species of waterbird. Several mixed heronries are found around the dam, supporting a variety of breeding egrets, herons and cormorants. One heronry, c.1 km north-east of the bridge over the Vaal river, regularly supports over 3,500 breeding pairs. Another, on the southern shore (c.30 km from the first colony), regularly supports 2,200 breeding pairs. The dam regularly holds notable numbers of Phoenicopterus minor, Sterna caspia, Mycteria ibis and a few pairs of Circus ranivorus. The Kalahari thornveld surrounding the dam supports several large raptors and terrestrial birds, including breeding Aquila rapax, Gyps africanus and Ardeotis kori, as well as visiting Circus macrourus and Polemaetus bellicosus.

Non-bird biodiversity: Several large mammals have been reintroduced, including Ceratotherium simum (LR/nt).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cape Shoveler Spatula smithii winter  183-490 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis winter  150-540 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus winter  75 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  760-1,632 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  frequent  A1  Near Threatened 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  67-193 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Darter Anhinga rufa winter  273-610 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta non-breeding  271-716 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational 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 majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - nutrient loads happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors utility & service lines happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Forest Woodland - mixed  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Grassland   0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable
Wetlands (inland) Artificial wetlands  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)  
Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserve 21,685 protected area contained by site 21,207  
Sandveld Nature Reserve 32,729 protected area contained by site 37,735  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Artificial wetlands  -
Grassland Grassland - Semi-desert  -
Forest Woodland - mixed  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%
water management 80%
fisheries/aquaculture -
tourism/recreation -

References Colahan (1992a,b, 1993a,b, 1994a,b), Kopij and Nuttall (1996), Nuttall (1993, 1995).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sandveld and Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserves. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/07/2015

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