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Location South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal
Central coordinates 30o 3.00' East  29o 56.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 11,948 ha
Altitude 560 - 1,720m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary The mistbelt forms an irregular band through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, extending from Weza in the southwest to Ngome in the northeast. The forests hold many important species, including the largest remaining population of the threatened Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus as well as Red-necked Spurfowl Pternistis afer and Lemon Dove Aplopelia larvata.

Site description The mistbelt forms an irregular band through the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, extending from Weza in the south-west to Ngome in the north-east. It once had a large grassland component, which is now almost entirely transformed by agriculture and commercial timber. The forest component consists of a series of patches occurring mainly on southern slopes where evaporation is less and the effects of fire reduced. Before colonial settlement in the 1800s these forests were larger and more numerous, and many may have been contiguous.

Mistbelt forest represents a southern extension of the Afromontane forests of tropical Africa. In KwaZulu-Natal most of these forests occur between 1,200 and 1,400 m, but may extend as low as 560 m or as high as 1,720 m This habitat has as its unifying feature, in the climax stage of succession, the dominance of Podocarpus trees (three species are present in KwaZulu-Natal). In the early stages of forest succession, trees of Celtis and Kiggelaria are typical. Common mistbelt trees in later stages are of Combretum, Calodendrum, Zanthoxylum, Scolopia, Vepris, Ekebergia and Halleria. Ilex, Ficus and Prunus are more common alongside streams.

Because of the scattered nature of mistbelt forests, none of which is outstandingly better than the others, it is difficult to single out individual blocks as IBAs; equally, it is impractical to designate them all, since the total number must run into thousands. The forest patches function in unison as a single ecological unit. Therefore the selection criteria adopted for inclusion in this blanket IBA are a minimum patch size of 50 ha and the presence of the bird species that is the best indicator of climax forest, Poicephalus robustus robustus. The IBA thus comprises 23 such forests, of which 12 are State Forests (3,832 ha), nine are privately owned (2,772 ha), and four have mixed ownership (5,344 ha). There are a further 42 forests in the mistbelt that individually exceed 50 ha in extent, and which total 9,071 ha, but they are not listed here because they do not support Poicephalus robustus robustus.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The forests hold many important species, including the largest remaining population of the threatened Poicephalus robustus robustus. Bird parties are frequent, and typical forest birds include Ceratogymna bucinator, Apaloderma narina, Zoothera gurneyi, Lioptilus nigricapillus, Tauraco corythaix, Coracina caesia, Cossypha dichroa, Pogonocichla stellata, Phylloscopus ruficapilla, Trochocercus cyanomelas, Telophorus olivaceus, Estrilda melanotis and Serinus scotops. The quiet forest streams hold Alcedo semitorquata and Motacilla clara.

Non-bird biodiversity: Of the trees, Podocarpus henkelii is endemic to the mistbelt forests, and Ocotea bullata is exceptionally rare. Other flowering plants of interest are Geranium natalense and Polystachya ottoniana. Mistbelt forests are very rich in endemic invertebrates, notably spiders, beetles, earthworms, snails and millipedes: many are still being described. Of exceptional interest is the presence, only in Ingele Forest, of the onychophoran Opisthopatus roseus (EX).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Buteo oreophilus resident  1998  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Olive Bush-shrike Telophorus olivaceus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
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, A2, 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  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Forest Canary Serinus scotops resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - nomadic grazing happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Agriculture and aquaculture wood and pulp plantations (includes afforestation) - agro-industry plantations 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 majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Biological resource use logging & wood harvesting - intentional use: large scale happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Biological resource use logging & wood harvesting - intentional use: subsistence/small scale happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - trend unknown/unrecorded happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high

Forest Montane forest - mixed  0 0 moderate (70-90%) poor (40-69%) very unfavourable

Most of site (50-90%) covered (including the most critical parts for important bird species)  No management plan exists but the management planning process has begun  Very little or no conservation action taking place  low 

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Montane forest - mixed  -

Land use

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

References McCracken (1987), Wirminghaus (1998).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Forests. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/05/2015

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