As we draw towards the end of what has been a difficult year in the botany world with the loss of several incredibly special people, including Rachel and Rodney Saunders, Stephen Cousins and Cameron McMaster, I feel that amidst the sadness, we must remind ourselves of what has been good about 2018.
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.
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.
Here’s how you can help
Latest Renosterveld News
Mountain bikers: The Renosterveld and farming landscapes between Bredasdorp and Swellendam are a fairly new… and growing mountain biking destination....
Very little is known about quartz patches in the Overberg. These are unique islands of white quartz pebbles found in Shale and Silcrete Renosterveld.
Summer is here with a vengeance in the Overberg. The harvest has been gathered in and it is a time that after the whirlwind craziness of spring that most botanists will be tucked away in their cool offices or taking a well earnt break.
How can one link two critically endangered Renosterveld patches that are kilometres apart? Through watercourses – the small, non-perennial rivers and streams that criss-cross the Overberg.
Spring is a crazy time and we have all been buried in our various field visits. This often means long days in the field and coming home with a bag full of herbarium specimens ...
For 10 months of the year, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Renosterveld is drab and dull. But when spring arrives - that’s when Renosterveld truly shows her beautiful face. Every colour, pattern and shape emerges, and the landscape comes to life.
Something unexpected happened when our team of Renosterveld vegetation experts started looking at watercourses. They found critically endangered indigenous fish...
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.