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Location South Africa, Western Cape
Central coordinates 20o 29.00' East  34o 26.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 40,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 611m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description De Hoop Nature Reserve is situated near the southern tip of the African continent, c.56 km east of Bredasdorp. This reserve comprises a unique diversity of natural habitats and it is situated in the heartland of a mosaic of grainfields and wheat pastures. The reserve holds the Ramsar-designated De Hoop Vlei, a coastal lake, which formed when the mouth of the Sout river was blocked by the emergence of estuarine sandbars, creating a landlocked, brackish expanse of water, separated from the ocean by 2.5 km of mobile sand-dunes, and fed by the Sout and Potteberg rivers and by several springs.

The lake is c.15 km × 500 m in extent and its depth varies considerably, reaching a maximum of 8 m during periods of flooding, which may persist for several years. During floods, large areas of adjacent land, mainly to the south-west, are inundated. On the other hand, the lake has dried up completely during drought periods. Salinity can vary considerably, with fluctuations of between 3‰ and 49‰ being recorded over a three-year period. The dominant aquatic plants are Ruppia and Potamogeton. Marginal vegetation includes small reedbeds Phragmites and patches of sedge-marsh Scirpus.

Surrounding the lake are localized forest patches of Sideroxylon, Celtis and Euclea. The coastal plain supports dune fynbos, with proteoid fynbos farther inland. The Potberg mountain range, which rises abruptly in the north-eastern part of the reserve, is an inselberg of sandstone and quartzite. The isolated and unique nature of this mountain has resulted in the evolution of an unusual dry mesic heath, holding many species endemic to the mountain.The reserve’s astonishing terrestrial diversity is coupled with a rugged coastline, which is gently concave and faces the broadest part of the Agulhas Bank. The meeting of the icy Benguela and warm subtropical Agulhas currents offshore contributes to the variety of habitats, both terrestrial and marine, found within the reserve. The marine system is dominated by various marine algae such as kelp Ecklonia, Macrocystis, Ulva and Laminaria. There is an area of shifting dunes at Koppie Alleen which covers some 1,000 ha; some dunes are up to 100 m high. The dunes hold few plant species, but the unique dune fynbos is adapted to this unstable environment.

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 
Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata winter  319-4,626 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Cape Shoveler Spatula smithii winter  604-3,004 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus winter  95-180 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1,473 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Black Harrier Circus maurus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata winter  2,886-24,400 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini resident  present  A1  Near Threatened 
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini winter  50-70 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Knysna Woodpecker Campethera notata resident  1998  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Cape Long-billed Lark Certhilauda curvirostris resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis resident  1998  present  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 
Cape Siskin Serinus totta resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  20,000-49,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site 553,000 protected area overlaps with site 17,937  
De Hoop Marine Protected Area 28,892 protected area contained by site 23,000  
De Hoop Provincial Nature Reserve 32,160 protected area contained by site 40,000  
De Hoop Vlei Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 750 protected area contained by site 750  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Shrubland - Cape (fynbos)  -
Sea Rock stacks & coastal islets  -
Coastline Sand dunes & beaches; Sea cliffs & rocky shores; Shallow marine waters; Shingle & stony beaches  major

Land use

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

Other biodiversity The reserve is thought to contain more than 1,500 plant species, representing one of the highest diversities within the Cape Floristic Kingdom. At least 108 fynbos plants are threatened and/or endemic to De Hoop and its immediate vicinity. There are at least 50 endemic species; 12 occur only on Potberg, the remainder on the limestone outcrops. Fourteen plant species were recently discovered and remain undescribed, of which eight are not known to occur outside De Hoop Nature Reserve. Among mammals, the reserve holds a healthy population of the South African endemic Equus zebra zebra (VU) and the world’s largest population of Damaliscus dorcas dorcas; the latter subspecies is endemic to the Cape Floristic Kingdom. The marine reserve off the coast protects a wide diversity of organisms, notably the whale Eubalaena australis (LR/cd), which mates and calves here annually between June and December.

References Boshoff (1981, 1987, 1990), Boshoff and Currie (1981), Boshoff and Robertson (1985), Boshoff and Scott (1990), Coetzee (1986), Cowan (1995), Cowling et al. (1988), Scott (1991), Scott (1995).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: De Hoop Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 01/08/2014

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