Sites - Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
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Karoo National Park
South Africa, Western Cape
22o 35.00' East 32o 15.00' South
A1, A3, A4ii
1,032 - 1,932m
Year of IBA assessment
BirdLife South Africa
Summary The dry, semi-arid Karoo National Park is situated in the central Great Karoo, just north of Beaufort West. The IBA incorporates the Karoo National Park, the town of Beaufort West and its sewage works. A total of 170 species have been recorded in the Park; 77 are resident and 29 are breeding visitors. Despite the low diversity, the Park is extremely important for Namib-Karoo biome-restricted assemblage species, as well as supporting a host of other arid-zone specials.
Site description The semi-arid Karoo National Park is situated in the central Great Karoo, just north of Beaufort West. The IBA incorporates the park, the town of Beaufort West and its sewage works. The dominant topographical feature is the impressive Nuweveld escarpment, which towers over the lower plains. Riverbeds, which are dry for most of the year, descend sharply from the escarpment to meander across the flat plains in the far west and east of the park.
The stark variation in altitude yields a wide diversity of microhabitats, resulting in a distinct contrast between the harsher vegetation of the upper plateau, where grassveld intruded by fynbos elements is dominant, and the lower plain where dwarf scrub dominates and thornveld occurs in the moister valleys and watercourses. The scrub vegetation, which covers much of the plains and lower escarpment, is dominated by Nama Karoo shrubs seldom exceeding 70 cm in height. The vegetation becomes non-succulent as the altitude increases, with thicket of Dodonaea and Rhus occurring at height. Grasses begin to dominate on the Nuweveld Plateau. Belts of riverine Acacia thicket line the mostly dry riverbeds, creating a network of tree-lines that stretch throughout the park’s plains.
Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. A total of 170 species have been recorded in the park; 77 are resident and 29 are breeding visitors. The lowland plains are particularly good for Neotis ludwigii, Eupodotis vigorsii, Chersomanes albofasciata, Certhilauda albescens, Eremopterix verticalis, Cercomela tractrac, C. schlegelii, Eremomela gregalis and Malcorus pectoralis. Serinus alario occurs whenever there is seeding grass and water. The belts of riverine Acacia woodland hold Phragmacia substriata. The thicket and scrub on the slopes support Sylvia layardi and Parus afer. In very wet years, nomadic Eremopterix australis and Emberiza impetuani move in and breed in large numbers, and are then absent until the next heavy rains, which may be decades apart. The secretive and localized Euryptila subcinnamomea, Anthus crenatus, Onychognathus nabouroup and Geocolaptes olivaceus occur in rocky gorges and kloofs, while Cercomela sinuata is found on the grass and scrub of the plateau. The newly described Certhilauda subcoronata is common throughout the park. The town of Beaufort West is included in the IBA because it has several large Eucalyptus trees which support thousands of roosting Falco naumanni in summer; the birds disperse during the day to forage on the plains surrounding the town.
Non-bird biodiversity: Among reptiles, Goggia braacki and Pachydactylus kladeroderma both have global ranges restricted to the eastern portion of the Nuweveld escarpment, and they may occur within the park. Cordylus cloetei, another Nuweveld-escarpment endemic, occurs at nearby Fraserberg and should be searched for in the park. It is conservation policy to restock the park with mammalian game species that roamed these plains prior to human intervention, and the threatened Diceros bicornis (CR), Equus zebra (VU; the second largest population in the world) and Bunolagus monticularis (EN) have been reintroduced.