The latest newsletter of the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust (OLCT) is now available. First-ever Renosterveld Research & Visitor Centre launched, Visitors to the veld at Haarwegskloof and Black Harriers breeding at Haarwegskloof are some of our recent stories.
Today only 6% of Lowland Renosterveld remains
What is Renosterveld?
At the Southern tip of Africa lies one of the smallest, but richest plant kingdoms on earth: the Cape Floristic Kingdom (CFK).
The fertile lowlands of the Overberg region in South Africa support an exceptionally diverse vegetation type that is part of the CFK, namely Renosterveld (literally translates as rhino-fields).
It is considered the richest bulb habitat in the world, displaying a spectacular bloom over the spring season. Not only does this system comprise a wealth of plant species beyond one’s wildest imagination, it is also home to a diversity of mammals, reptiles, insects, amphibians, and birds.
In addition to this high biodiversity, Renosterveld exhibits extraordinary levels of endemism. This means that many species only occur in very small geographical areas, sometimes limited to just a single quartz outcrop on one particular farm.
Renosterveld – The Story
Around 300 years ago, when European settlers started moving into the region, the Overberg lowlands were teaming with large game, like Black Rhino, Bontebok, Eland and the now extinct Bluebuck and Quagga. Unfortunately, these lowlands were most suitable for agriculture and over time 95% of these habitats have been converted to cash crops and wildlife replaced with livestock.
What is left of Renosterveld habitat today is rather different from that before large-scale agricultural development. It was probably a far more grassy system with an even higher diversity of shrubs and bulbs. Sadly, the replacement of large game with small, selective feeders, such as cattle and sheep, combined with years of mismanagement, has severely degraded this ecosystem and is often dominated by ‘unwanted’ shrubs, such as Renosterbos.
Renosterveld is now highly fragmented with the smallest remnants is little as one square meter. The Overberg contains some of the largest and most intact Renosterveld remnants, consisting of four different vegetation types, all Critically Endangered. Almost all Renosterveld remnants occur on privately-owned land, creating an additional challenge.
All these factors, coupled with the large range of endemic and threatened plants and animal species inhabiting this bio-hotspot, makes this unique rhino veld one of the most threatened habitats on Earth and putting it in urgent need of conservation attention.
What we do
Working with Partners to Manage Farming Landscapes
The Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust is uniquely positioned to bring landowners, communities, wildlife agencies, and NGOs together to conserve the last remnants of Lowland Renosterveld in several strategic locations.
Part of Cape Floral Kingdom
Smallest, yet richest Plant Kingdom on Earth. A system recognized as one of the World’s seven Biodiversity Hotspots
Richest Bulb Habitat in the World
Lowland Renosterveld is a highly diverse vegetation type, most renowned for its spectacular Spring (August/September) flower displays.
Remaining Lowland Renosterveld
Once covered most of the Overberg, but due to its fertile soils it is now highly transformed for agriculture and only 4-6% remains in its original range.
Red Data Status
All four Lowland Renosterveld vegetation types are Critically Endangered.
As some of you may know, I have recently joint the Overberg Lowland Conservation Trust as a freelance consultant to help Odette with a wide range of jobs and duties.
Two of our respected fellow conservation organisations have shared our posts on their blogs: Fauna and Flora International and Africa Geographic!
Renosterveld is known (or at least should be known) as the richest bulb kingdom in the world - this means that more bulb species occur in the Overberg renosterveld than any other area on Earth of the same size.
We are running a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for the first-ever Visitor & Research Centre in renosterveld. The campaign starts on the 23rd March and will run for 40 days.
The Overberg contains some of the largest and most intact Renosterveld remnants, consisting of four different vegetation types, namely Central Rûens Shale, Eastern Rûens Shale, Western Rûens Shale, and Rûens Silcrete Renosterveld. All four are Critically Endangered.
Renosterveld is now highly fragmented with fewer than 50 fragments being over 100ha in size. Almost all Renosterveld remnants occur on privately-owned land, creating an additional challenge for conservation. All these factors, coupled with the large range of endemic and threatened plants and animals inhabiting this bio-hotspot, makes this unique rhino veld one of the most threatened habitats on Earth and putting it in urgent need of conservation attention.
What is left of Renosterveld habitat today is rather different from that before large-scale agricultural development Sadly, the replacement of large game with small, selective feeders such as cattle and sheep, combined with years of mismanagement, has severely degraded this ecosystem. Because of this, renosterveld is often dominated by ‘uninteresting’ shrubs, such as Renosterbos, giving it the unfortunate grey, ‘drab’ appearance and hence the impression of a homogeneous, drab vegetation type. If only more people were to experience the treasures hidden in this rich and diverse habitat!
We need you help! Our next challenge is to raise funds for overheads & maintenance, such as insurance, electricity, water, and repairs to pipes & fencing. Our long-term goal is to have a reserve manager, who will be permanently based at the centre. The full running cost of the reserve and centre will amount to around R200,000 per year.
This is where you can help!