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Location South Africa, Western Cape
Central coordinates 18o 16.00' East  32o 47.00' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 6,621 ha
Altitude 0 - 30m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description The Berg river wetlands are located 140 km north of Cape Town. The town of Laaiplek lies directly north of the river mouth; 6 km upstream of the mouth lies the town of Velddrif. The Berg river forms one of only four perennial estuaries on the arid west coast of southern Africa. The IBA includes only the lower Berg river, but this system is reliant on the management of its catchment, which extends c.160 km upstream from the river mouth to its source in the Franschhoek and Drakenstein mountains.

In addition to the river channel, the flood-plain encompasses eight major wetland types: ephemeral pans, commercial saltpans, reed-marsh, sedge-marsh, saltmarsh, halophytic flood-plain, xeric flood-plain and intertidal mudflats. The ephemeral pans comprise monospecific stands of Juncus during summer. After winter rains, abundant Aponogeton develops, along with other aquatic plants. Reed-marsh is found mainly on inner riverine beds, and is dominated by Phragmites, Scirpus or Cyperus. Sedge-marshes are dominated by Juncus, with smaller sedge species occurring in a varied mosaic. The saltmarsh experiences tidal flooding by saline water twice a day and is dominated by fleshy-leaved salt-tolerant species. Halophytic flood-plain vegetation consists primarily of Sarcocornia, which may be interspersed with open patches, which are colonized by ephemeral growth during spring. The xeric flood-plain vegetation is highly diverse. Succulents include Mesembryanthemaceae and Asparagaceae. Rhus and Lycium bushes also occur. The flood-plain can be inundated for up to two weeks at a time when the Berg river floods.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cape Francolin Francolinus capensis resident  1998    Least Concern 
Cape Shoveler Anas smithii winter  113-603 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1,564-3,932 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba resident  20-50 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  152-294 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  236-2,273 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius resident  200-400 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius winter  496-1,087 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea winter  8,281-16,881 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus breeding  250-500 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus winter  657-1,640 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
King Gull Larus hartlaubii breeding  500-670 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
King Gull Larus hartlaubii winter  1,341-2,030 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia non-breeding  106-199 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii winter  160-646 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis winter  695-1,555 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus winter  394-2,623 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Karoo Lark Certhilauda albescens resident  1998    Least Concern 
Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis resident  1998    Least Concern 
Sicklewing Chat Cercomela sinuata resident  1998    Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Cape West Coast UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve 378,240 protected area contains site 6,621  

Local conservation groups The local conservation groups below are working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
West coast bird club 0
Heritage society 0
Botanical society 0
Lower berg river conservation association 0


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Salt marshes; Saltpans  -
Rocky areas   3%
Grassland   96%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
water management 30%
nature conservation and research -

Other biodiversity Three endemic, highly localized and threatened reptiles occur on the xeric flood-plain of the Berg river: the west-coast endemic Scelotes gronovii (LR/nt), S. kasneri (VU) and Cordylus macropholis all occur here. A fourth threatened reptile, Psammophis leightoni, is also found on the flood-plain.

References Cooper et al. (1976), Day (1981), de Witt et al. (1994), Hockey (1993), Hockey and Hockey (1980), Hockey and Velasquez (1992), Hockey et al. (1992), Kalejta (1991, 1992a,b,c), Kalejta and Hockey (1994), Little (1993), Summers et al. (1977), Turpie (1995), van Wyk (1983), Velasquez (1992, 1993), Velasquez and Hockey (1992), Velasquez et al. (1991).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lower Berg river wetlands. Downloaded from on 25/04/2014

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