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Location South Africa, Free State,KwaZulu-Natal
Central coordinates 29o 1.00' East  28o 27.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 17,770 ha
Altitude 1,700 - 2,328m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary This IBA consists of the Sterkfontein Dam and an escarpment to the south of the IBA. The most dominant grassland type is moist sandy highveld grassland. This area supports some highly threatened grassland species, including Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi, Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus and a breeding Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres colony.

Site description The northern boundary of this reserve lies 13 km south-west of Harrismith, while the southern edge lies along the border with KwaZulu-Natal, just west of Oliviershoek Pass. Most of the eastern boundary runs along the Free State section of the road (R74) through the pass. The reserve lies in the grassland and alpine belt between 1,700 and 2,328 m, and consists of rolling sour grassland surrounding the state-owned Sterkfontein Dam, which receives most of its water from the Tugela river. The vegetation is primarily high-altitude montane grassland. The western portion of the reserve includes part of the northern end of the ‘Little Drakensberg’ section of the escarpment, holding cave sandstone cliffs that are dissected by streams to form valleys and gorges. High-altitude shrubs form a heath of Protea, Erica, Chrysocoma and Helichrysum. Stands of Leucosidea occur on some of the slopes and small patches of Afromontane forest are found in a few gorges.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This area supports some highly threatened grassland species including the critically threatened Heteromirafra ruddi; it also supports breeding Geronticus calvus and holds a breeding Gyps coprotheres colony, which falls just outside the reserve. Both Grus paradisea and Balearica regulorum are found in the reserve. Small numbers of Neotis denhami, Circus macrourus and Tyto capensis are found on the reserve. Several other grassland species, such as Saxicola bifasciata, Geocolaptes olivaceus, Anthus crenatus, Promerops gurneyi, Monticola explorator and Eupodotis caerulescens, also occur here. The small patches of Afromontane forest support Serinus scotops and Lioptilus nigricapillus.

Non-bird biodiversity: The reserve is known to hold the following threatened or endemic herptiles: Cordylus giganteus (VU), Tetradactylus breyeri (VU) and Bradypodion dracomontanum. The mammal Myotis lesueri (VU) is known to occur in the surrounding grassland.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus resident  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Bustard Eupodotis caerulescens resident  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus resident  present  A1  Least Concern 
Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Near Threatened 
Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Least Concern 
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Forest Canary Serinus scotops resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2014 high very 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%) slow but significant deterioration low
Biological resource use gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities likely in short term (within 4 years) 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%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution domestic & urban waste water - run-off likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
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 likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Transportation and service corridors utility & service lines happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Grassland Grassland - montane  0 0 moderate (70-90%) poor (40-69%) very unfavourable
Rocky areas   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  0 0 good (> 90%) poor (40-69%) unfavourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve 18,490 protected area contains site 17,770  
UKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site 242,813 protected area is adjacent to site 0  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Grassland - montane  -
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  -
Rocky areas   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
water management 60%
nature conservation and research 14%

References Colahan (1992a,b, 1993a,b, 1994a,b), Herholdt and Grobler (1987).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/05/2015

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