As transformed landscapes go, the southern Cape’s Overberg is up there at the top of the list, its natural renosterveld vegetation replaced by vast expanses of pasture and crops. It’s not all bad news for birds, but there’s not much good news either.
Renosterveld – one of the most threatened habitats on Earth
Renosterveld is highly fragmented with fewer than 50 fragments being over 100 ha 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, make this unique rhino veld one of the most threatened habitats on Earth and putting it in urgent need of conservation attention.
Landowners are busy. They’re busy using their land to live off. Many of these farms have rich natural landscapes – which land users want to protect.
So the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust has partnered with NGOs and farmers to test a new conservation structure – called a Conservation Easement. Easements give landowners an accessible model to conserve their land.
How does it work? A servitude is attached to the title deed – with a management plan attached to the servitude. So the ORCT team provides support, including incentive funding, to protect remaining renosterveld patches.
The blue print for this model is in place. And we’ve had our first easements signed already. Now we’re rolling out our management support to landowners who want to care for their renosterveld, forever. Find out more.
Statistics: Status of Lowland Renosterveld
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.
We are a small NPO dedicated to halting this downward spiral.
Mountain bikers and road cyclists: If you can’t ride in the Renosterveld, we’d love you to still ride for Renosterveld. That’s why we’re now part of the Cape Town Cycle Tour. On Sunday 11 March 2018, you can #RideForRenosterveld. And help us protect this critically endangered vegetation type.
We’ve only got space for 15 riders to #RideForRenosterveld. So get your friends involved. And enter the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
Floral Friday feature:
This prickly customer is Berkheya armata, which is a member of the Asteraceae or Daisy family.
This species is also known as the Vlaktedissel or Vlaktedoring in Afrikaans. It is relatively common in Overberg Renosterveld, growing on clay slopes and flats and producing its large and showy flowers into early summer (September-November) when most of the spring flowers have ended their beautiful display. It is a perennial species, producing multiple heads of leaves from a thick underground stem which also allows it to resprout after fire. The prickly and thick leaves of Berkheya armata ensure that it is seldom grazed by stock. The genus was named after the Dutch botanist Jan Le Francq van Berkhey by the German botanist Ehrart in 1788. Berkheya armata is visited by a variety of different pollinators including bees, flies and monkey beetles.
Why stay at our Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve?
There is nowhere else on earth where you can walk from your verandah at our Renosterveld Reserve, straight into the largest stretch of Lowland Renosterveld still left globally.
The Reserve is based in the Overberg, between the towns of Swellendam and Bredasdorp – very close to the world-renowned De Hoop Nature Reserve.
With over 500 species, the plant life here is exceptional. But our reserve is also home to many birds and mammals that depend on this habitat – like the Honey Badger and birds like the Black Harrier and Southern Black Korhaan. Come for the day. Or stay at our stylish Old Dairy Guesthouse, or our more rustic Research and Visitor Centre accommodation.
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The Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust needs your help in order to help save the Endangered Renosterveld in the Overberg.
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Latest Renosterveld News
Nerine humilis was introduced to me by Bruce Anderson following a field trip with John Manning in the Southern Cape. The inspiration for this trip followed the discovery of a very unusual form of Nerine humilis with exceptionally long filaments and styles on the foothills of the Langeberg mountains near Suurbraak.
The farmers of this landscape are custodians of Overberg Renosterveld. What remains of this ecosystem lies between fields of wheat, canola and artificial pasture crops for rearing sheep and cattle.
One of the key aims at the heart of the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust has always been the pursuit of...
Self-guided botanical trail, new species, our spring highlights and how you can #RideforRenosterveld.
As spring gives way to summer in the Overberg it is time to take a look back and reflect on what is always our busiest time of year. Spring is the time that the Renosterveld comes into bloom with a plethora of beautiful flowers of all shapes and colours.
One of the areas which the ORCT has targeted as important for further biodiversity monitoring has been the Dipka-Doring River catchment in the eastern Overberg. This river system is also one of the Table Mountain Fund’s Climate Corridors...
Sometimes you simply need to spoil yourself. Especially in a peaceful nature reserve. If that thought makes you sigh happily, then join the Yoga, Healthy Eating and Nature Retreat on Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve.
Did you Know?
At the southern tip of Africa lies the Cape Floral Kingdom – The smallest, yet richest plant kingdom in the world, most renowned for its beautiful Fynbos with its Proteas. A component is known as Renosterveld, named after the Rhino (Renoster in Afrikaans) that used to roam the region.
Renosterveld is the richest bulb habitat on Earth, 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.
Our more showy Fynbos habitats have been afforded much protection while our lowland Renosterveld has been overlooked and largely neglected – despite it being renowned for its incredible spring flower displays and extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity and endemism.
Unlike Fynbos, which grows on poor sandy soils, Renosterveld is found on more fertile soils, and has been developed for agriculture to such an extent that less than 5% remains today. This unique habitat is in itself a biodiversity hotspot, but is teetering on the brink of extinction.
Together with our partners at BirdLife South Africa, the The Botanical Society of South Africa, SABMillerand WWF South Africa’s Better Barley Better Beer Project, the Overberg Crane Group and Sijnn Wines, we have produced a very impressive Renosterveld booklet for guiding managers and farmers on veld management and identification of some key species (from plants to insects to mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians). These will be distributed amongst landowners and are available for retail to other individuals who might be interested, or download it here.
Working with Farmers to Save Renosterveld
The Overberg Renosterveld 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. We help farmers a.o. with the management of their valuable veld more appropriately.
Part of Cape Floral Kingdom
The Cape Floral Kingdom is the 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
Renosterveld once covered most of the Lowlands of the Overberg, but due to its fertile soils it is now highly transformed for agriculture.
Red Data Status
All four Overberg Lowland Renosterveld vegetation types are Critically Endangered.
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 as 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 habitat one of the most threatened habitats on Earth and putting it in urgent need of conservation attention.