The SKEP Priority Regions

SKEP LandscapeNine priority geographic priority areas were identified as the most efficient locations for achieving the conservation targets of SKEP. These geographic priority areas were refined on the basis of their ability to contribute to the maintenance of Red Data List species, and maintain important ecological processes, particularly in the face of climate change.

The nine identified geographic priority areas have conservation value and are most vulnerable to increasing land-use pressures. In these priority areas, SKEP will seek to establish informal conservation networks that will achieve vegetation and process targets.

 

SKEP Geographic Priority Regions Map

The nine geographic priority regions identified for the Succulent Karoo are:

1.      Sperrgebiet

The Sperrgebiet in Namibia encompasses nearly all of the northern extent of the Succulent Karoo vegetation and is the only wilderness area in the Hotspot. Since the area has been held as a mining concession for the last century, it has been strictly off-limits to the public and scientists until recently.

The few scientific studies that have been carried out in the 56,100 hectare area have recorded 776 plant species, including 234 endemics and 284 Red Data List taxa.

This unique area boasts the highest levels of biodiversity in all of Namibia. In addition to the high concentration of endemic plants, amphibians and reptiles, wild populations of gemsbok, springbok and carnivores such as brown hyena live in this undisturbed environment.

Although mining has been the saviour of the Sperrgebiet to date, exploration for new mineral riches beyond the already transformed coastal zones is a major land use pressure and periodic use of the eastern grasslands of the Sperrgebiet as “emergency grazing” is also a concern for conservation of this fragile landscape.

Fortunately establishment of a Sperrgebiet National Park by the Namibian authorities is well advanced.

2.      Greater Richtersveld

The Greater Richtersveld includes the Gariep region which has a staggering 2700 plant species, 560 of which are endemic. Since 80% of the plant species are succulents, this is widely regarded as the area with the world's highest succulent diversity.

Many endemic plant species, such as the bastard quiver tree (Aloe pilansii), occur only in small colonies on the highest peaks. Populations of this species have halved during the past three generations. Gariep also has the highest cover, density, and diversity of lichens in the world with 29 different species, many of which are associated with minute embedded succulents.

Richtersveld National Park, which conserves much of the Gariep, is leased to SANParks by the local community, who have retained their rights to communal grazing. Overgrazing and diamond mining scars are both very evident in the region. Other pressures include the illegal harvesting and poaching of game, removal of plants by collectors and poaching of marine resources.

Although there are no large herds of game in the Richtersveld, klipspringers still grace the rocky slopes and grey rhebok, steenbok, duiker and a few Hartmann's mountain zebra still occur. Baboon, vervet monkey, carcal, jackal, brown hyena and leopard are sighted from time to time. Birds are abundant, particularly along the river courses and scrubland and the mouth of the Orange River, which is a breeding ground for water birds, and a RAMSAR-designated wetland of international importance.

Key facts

Highest succulent and lichen diversity in the world.

Flagship species

bastard quiver tree (Aloe pillansii), Hartmann’s mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae), Brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea).

Famous places

Richtersveld National Park, the Gariep River and RAMSAR-designated wetland at the Gariep River mouth.

Pressures

Overgrazing and diamond mining scars, illegal harvesting, poaching, and off-road vehicles.

SKEP mining

 3.      Bushmanland Inselbergs

The Bushmanland Inselbergs area is located on the northeast margin of the Succulent Karoo Hotspot, just south of the Orange River and the border between Namibia and South Africa.

The area is dominated by a plain of desert grasslands and peppered by Inselbergs, ancient rocky outcrops in irregular patterns.

These Inselbergs are important refugia for plants and animals and act as stepping-stones for rock-loving species migrating east west across the sand-covered plains of Bushmanland. Isolation of populations has led to diversification within the dwarf succulent shrublands.

In total, the 31 400-hectare area includes 429 plant species, of which 67 are found only in this hotspot and 87 are Red List species. Mining has impacted many of the Inselbergs, and a proposed opencast Zinc mine may devastate most of the spectacularly diverse Gamsberg Inselberg, home to two flagship endemics: Conophytum ratum and Lithops dorotheae. The Red Lark (Certhilauda albescens) is also an important endemic species, although severe overgrazing on communal lands in this part of the Bushmanland plateau is impacting its habitat.

Key facts

Refuge for plants and animals in a time of climate change.

Spectacularly diverse dwarf succulent shrublands.

Flagship species

living stones (Lithops dorotheae), the Red Lark (Calendulauda burra), Burger’s onion (Conophytum burger).

Famous places

Gamsberg Inselberg and Pella.

Pressures

Mining and overgrazing.

4.      Namaqualand Uplands

The Namaqualand (Kamiesberg) Uplands encompass the highlands of central Namaqualand in the Northern Cape Province. The area is known for its spectacular displays of spring flowers and high diversity and endemism of bulbous flowers. The 33,500-hectare area includes 1109 species, of which 286 are Succulent Karoo endemics and 107 are Red List species. In addition to its diversity, the region contains large zones of transitional vegetation between succulent and Fynbos habitats.

Experts consider these zones crucial for continued speciation and resilience to climate change. Conserving this area will provide an important corridor between the Namaqualand National Park and the Central Namaqualand coast priority area. Agriculture, mainly grain production, has already transformed all areas of level terrain and overgrazing by livestock, especially on communal lands, is a significant land-use pressure on this area.

Key facts

Highest mountains in Namaqualand, spring flowers, transitional zones between succulent and fynbos habitats.

Flagship species

Namaqualand daisy (Dimorphotheca sinuate) Longtongue fly, Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), and Cape leopard.

Famous places

The Rooiberg Peaks Trail, Historic communal grazing towns of Leliefontein and Tweerivier.

Pressures

Agriculture and overgrazing

5.      Central Namaqualand Coast

Although diamond mining and tourism development have transformed much of the Namaqualand coastline, the Central Namaqualand coast incorporates a crucial 30 kilometre wide tract of relatively pristine coastline where access to diamond mining areas was controlled.

The Griqua Communal Authority now protects a large portion of this area. The 34,600-hectare area includes 432 plant species, 85 of which are Succulent Karoo endemics and 44 of which are Red List species.

Flagship species include locally dominant succulent endemics such as Wooleya farinosa, Grant's golden mole (Eremitalpa granti) and Gronovi's dwarf burrowing skink (Scelotes gronovii).

Key facts

30 km of relatively pristine coastline and site of the Namaqua Coastal Park.

Flagship species

Bokbaaivygies (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis), living stones (Lithops dorotheae) Grant’s Golden Mole (Eremitalpa granti), Gronovi’s dwarf burrowing skink (Scelotes gronovii). 

Famous places

Quartz patches at Soebatsfontein Succulent Reserve.

Pressures

Diamond mining

6.      Knersvlakte

The Knersvlakte is an extensive dry plain in the centre of the Succulent Karoo hotspot bounded on the east by the Bokkeveld Mountains. Fields of white quartz pebbles cover the gently rolling hills of the area and are associated with unique dwarf succulent plants.

The 48,500-hectare area is extremely rich in plant species, with a total of 1,324 species, 266 of which are Succulent Karoo endemics. Within the hotspot, this priority area has the greatest percentage of threatened endemics with 128 species being listed on the Red List. Small-scale mining for gypsum, diamonds and limestone/marble, overgrazing and the illegal harvesting of rare and spectacular species for national and foreign plant collections are the greatest pressures in this area.

Key facts

Fields of white quartz pebbles with miniature succulents.

Flagship species

bababoudjies (Argyroderma delaetii) Greater Kestrel (Falco rupicoloides) and knopies/buttons, dumplings (Conophytum uviforme).

Famous places

Knersvlakte Nature Reserve, Vanrhynsdorp, Ratelgat Farm, Rooiberg Hills, Sout River Canyon, Quaggaskop Private Nature Reserve.

Pressures

Small-scale mining for gypsum, diamonds and limestone/marble. Overgrazing and illegal harvesting of rare plants.

7.      Hantam Tanqua Roggeveld

The Hantam-Roggeveld area is centred on the town of Calvinia and encompasses both the Bokkeveld and Roggeveld escarpments.

Some 2500 species of plants occur in the Hantam-Roggeveld, of which about 10% are endemic. The rugged slopes and cool highlands include a wide range of species characteristic of the interface between the renosterveld and Succulent Karoo.

As with the Namaqualand Uplands, conserving the cooler areas is an essential strategy for maintaining the unique diversity of the hotspot in the face of climate change. Additionally, due to relatively low levels of transformation in this priority area, there are excellent opportunities to include viable populations of Black Rhinoceros and upland-lowland seasonal migration routes for animals, especially Springbok.

The total plant species tally in this 86,600-hectare area is 1,767, of which 357 are Succulent Karoo endemics and 173 are Red List species.

Key facts

Interface between the Renosterveld and Succulent Karoo.

Flagship species

Cape buttercup (Sparaxis elegans) and wandflower, Harlequin flower (Sparaxis tricolor) Clanwilliam sandfish (Labeo seeberi).

Famous places

Calvinia, Bokkeveld and Roggeveld escarpments, Tanqua Karoo National Park, and the Hantam National Botanical Garden of SANBI.

Pressures

Livestock grazing.

SKEP Anatolian Dogs

8.      Central Breede River Valley

The Worcester/Robertson Karoo Centre, which includes the Middle Breede River Valley has approximately 1500 species of plants of which 115 are endemic.

Of the endemics, 77% are succulent species, although other groups such as the Ixias are also important.

Only 2.4 percent of this region is conserved and large areas along the Breede River have been transformed by irrigated agriculture, primarily for Lucerne, Stone fruit and vineyards.

Fortunately, several patches within this region have not been grazed since 1936 and remains in a pristine condition.

Key facts

Where Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Renosterveld meet.

Flagship specie

green ixia (Ixia viridiflora), Worcester-Robertson vygie (Drosanthemum speciosum), Monkey beetle (Clania glenlyonensis), Harvester termites (Hodotermitidae) resident in the ‘heuweltjies’.

Famous places

The Breede River.

Pressures

The region occupies low conservation status and faces irrigated agriculture pressure.

9.      Central Little Karoo

The Worcester/Robertson Karoo Centre, which includes the Middle Breede River Valley has approximately 1500 species of plants of which 115 are endemic.

Of the endemics, 77% are succulent species, although other groups such as the Ixias are also important.

Only 2.4 percent of this region is conserved and large areas along the Breede River have been transformed by irrigated agriculture, primarily for Lucerne, Stone fruit and vineyards.

Fortunately, several patches within this region have not been grazed since 1936 and remains in a pristine condition.

Key facts

Where Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Renosterveld meet.

Flagship species

tweekleurporseleinbos (Drosanthemum bicolor), Hoodia pilifera, giant spikethorn (Gloveria integrifolia), Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis)

Famous places

Langberg and Swartberg mountain ranges. 

Pressures

The region occupies low conservation status and faces irrigated agriculture pressure.

Last updated on 29 April 2016
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