email a friend
printable version
Location South Africa, Western Cape
Central coordinates 22o 4.00' East  33o 20.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 500,000 ha
Altitude 700 - 2,325m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary The Swartberg range drain numerous catchments that supply water to the arid Karoo and are the lifeblood of many major river systems. The Swartberg is deeply incised by the Buffels, Gamka, Seweweeks and Meiringspoort rivers. At high-altitudes the sclerophyllous fynbos is home to Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis, Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea, Cape Siskin Crithagra totta.

Site description The mainly sandstone Swartberg mountain range runs east–west parallel to the Outeniqua mountains (IBA ZA091). The Seweweekspoort splits the Swartberg into the western Klein Swartberg and the eastern Groot Swartberg. The Groot Swartberg runs some 170 km from the Seweweekspoort to c.20 km south-west of Willowmore. East of Blesberg peak, the range recedes, forming the Great Karoo plateau to the north and Little Karoo to the south.

The stark variation in altitude yields a wide diversity of microhabitats. Montane fynbos is found at higher altitudes and karroid and renosterveld shrubland are found on the lower slopes. The northern slopes support arid fynbos. Very small pockets of Afromontane forest are found in deep secluded mesic gorges on the southern slopes and are dominated by trees of Cunonia, Halleria, Pterocelastrus and Rapanea. The base of the southern slopes consists of renosterbosveld.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The site is extremely rich in both fynbos and karroid endemics. At high altitudes, the fynbos is home to Pycnonotus capensis, Nectarinia violacea, Serinus totta, Promerops cafer and Serinus leucopterus near Protea thickets. Chaetops frenatus becomes common on exposed rocky slopes above 1,200 m. Francolinus capensis is widespread. Habitat suitable for Sarothrura affinis and Turnix hottentotta occurs. Onychognathus nabouroup, Geocolaptes olivaceus and the secretive and localized Anthus crenatus occur in rocky gorges and kloofs. The lowland karroid plains, particularly to the north of the range, are good for Neotis ludwigii, Eupodotis vigorsii, Certhilauda albescens, Chersomanes albofasciata, Cercomela schlegelii, Eremomela gregalis and Malcorus pectoralis. Serinus alario occurs whenever there is seeding grass and water. Belts of riverine Acacia woodland support Phragmacia substriata and provide food, shelter and breeding habitat for many species, while the thicket and scrub on the slopes support Sylvia layardi and Parus afer.

Non-bird biodiversity: Being in the centre of the Cape Floral Kingdom, this area is thought to hold c.2,000 plant species, several of which are endemic and/or threatened. Thirteen species of high-altitude or alpine endemics are restricted to the Swartberg mountains: Agathosma purpurea, Protea pruinosa, Restio papyraceus, Leucadendron dregei, Phylica stokoei, P. costata, Pentameris swartbergensis, Thamnochortus papyraceus, Cliffortia setifolia, C. crassinerve, Euryops glutinosus, Erica constatisepala and E. toringbergensis. The global range of the recently described lizard Afrogecko swartbergensis is restricted to the northern slopes of summits in the Swartberg mountains.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cape Francolin Pternistis capensis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus resident  present  A1  Least Concern 
Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Victorin's Scrub-warbler Bradypterus victorini resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Cape Rock-jumper Chaetops frenatus resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Least Concern 
Orange-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia violacea resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Protea Canary Serinus leucopterus resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Least Concern 
Cape Siskin Serinus totta resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - agro-industry farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - nomadic grazing happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration medium
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Energy production and mining oil and gas drilling likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Energy production and mining renewable energy likely in short term (within 4 years) 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 some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of ground water (unknown use) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Other other threat happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - type unknown/unrecorded happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution garbage & solid waste happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation 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

Shrubland Shrubland - Cape (fynbos)  0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable

Most of site (50-90%) covered (including the most critical parts for important bird species)  Unknown  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Anysberg Provincial Nature Reserve 46,530 protected area contained by site 34,000  
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site 553,000 protected area overlaps with site 96,473  
Groot Swartberg Provincial Nature Reserve 83,927 protected area contained by site 81,496  
Klein Swartberg Mountain Catchment Area 26,548 protected area contained by site 17,999  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Shrubland - Cape (fynbos)  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
tourism/recreation -
water management 36%
nature conservation and research 100%

References Bond (1981), Winterbottom (1968).

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Swartberg mountains. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/08/2015

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