Amersfoort-Bethal-Carolina

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General Information

Status:

Global IBA (A1, A2, A3, A4i, ii)

Province:

Mpumalanga

Protection:

Unprotected

Size:

343 320 ha

Number:

SA018

Additional Info

  • Site description

    Bounded by the main roads connecting Ermelo, Amersfoort, Bethal, Hendrina and Carolina, this area consists mostly of flat to undulating farmland. In the patches of natural vegetation remaining in this agricultural sea there are important elements of Mesic Highveld Grassland growing on black vertic clays. This highly fragmented grassland holds several streams and pans. Rocky slopes, gullies and ravines favour the development of thicket, while secondary forest occasionally develops in the deeper, fire-protected gullies.

    Birds

    According to Barnes (1998), this IBA holds a large proportion (>10%) of the global population of Botha’s Lark Spizocorys fringillaris, although confirmation is required as to whether this is still the case. This lark generally avoids rocky areas, tall grass in bottomlands, vleis, croplands and planted pastures, but its preferred habitat – short, dense, natural grassland found on plateaus and upper hill slopes – occurs within the IBA. Data regarding the IBA’s current species composition is limited, but the grassland areas occasionally hold Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami, White-bellied Korhaan Eupodotis senegalensis, Blue Korhaan E. caerulescens, African Grass Owl Tyto capensis, Buff-streaked Chat Campicoloides bifasciata, Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus, Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni and  Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius.

    IBA trigger species

    The key species within this IBA is the globally threatened Botha’s Lark. Other globally threatened species are Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus, Southern Bald Ibis, Black Harrier Circus maurus, Blue Korhaan, Black-winged Pratincole, Secretarybird, Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus and Denham’s Bustard. Regionally threatened species are African Grass Owl, White-bellied Korhaan and Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus. Biome- and range-restricted species are Botha's Lark, Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus and Buff-streaked Chat.

    Other biodiversity

    Two highly localised and threatened forbs, Gladiolus robertsoniae and Nerine gracilis, are found in the grassland patches. The montane dwarf burrowing skink Scelotes mirus, a South African endemic, has also been recorded in these fragments. The IBA may hold other endemic reptiles, such as the rare many-spotted snake Amplorhinus multimaculatus, berg adder Bitis atropos, thin-tailed legless skink Acontias gracilicauda, Breyer’s long-tailed seps Tetradactylus breyeri, black-spotted dwarf gecko Lygodactylus nigropunctatus and spotted dwarf gecko L. ocellatus, as well as rough-haired golden mole Chrysospalax villosus.

    Conservation issues

    Threats

    The main threat to this IBA is the expansion of agricultural activities in the area, especially the planting of maize. Cattle and sheep farming are not substantial threats as some of the key species within the IBA, such as Botha’s Lark and Secretarybird, may benefit from these activities. Other possible threats are the expansion of the larger towns bordering the IBA, the numerous power lines transecting it (especially for key species such as Secretarybird and Denham’s Bustard) and the road network around it.

    Conservation actions

    The main key species, Botha’s Lark, has lost large parts of its preferred grassland habitat to agriculture, primarily maize fields. It tends to favour closely cropped grassland and this can be found on sheep farms where grazing is intense. More research is needed to determine the exact veld management the species requires for breeding and foraging. Barnes’ (1998) statement that ‘For Botha’s Lark, effective conservation is not necessarily about establishing reserves, but about ensuring that deleterious land-use practices are minimised or prevented in areas where they occur’ is more pertinent than ever. As no part of the IBA is formally protected, it is important that conservation initiatives in this area work closely with farmers in order to safeguard Botha’s Lark and other species of concern.

    Much of South Africa's remaining natural grassland is farmland used for stock production. Farming practices should be directed at maintaining habitat for all species and habitats requiring conservation. Continued habitat destruction through agriculture is a major cause for concern. Other major threats include mining, certain fire regimes and grazing practices. Fortunately, no afforestation is permitted in the Vaal catchment, owing to the water requirements of Gauteng. Provided this status quo remains, scope exists for conservation alongside agriculture in this District.

    Related webpages

    None.

    Contact

    If you have any information about the IBA, such as a new threat that could impact on it, please send an e-mail to iba@birdlife.org.za or call BirdLife South Africa +27 (11) 789 1122.

    Page last updated

    Monday, 12 January 2015

    Further Reading

    Allan DG, Batchelor GR, Tarboton WR. 1983. Breeding of Botha’s Lark. Ostrich 54: 55–57.

    Allan DG, Harrison JA, Navarro RA, Van Wilgen BW, Thompson MW. 1997. The impact of commercial afforestation on bird populations in Mpumalanga province, South Africa – insights from bird-atlas data. Biological Conservation 79: 173–185.

    Barnes K (ed.). 1998. The Important Bird Areas of southern Africa. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

    De Wet SF. 1991. Wakkerstroom munisipale vliegbied: drakrag bepaling. Unpublished report. Report No. OS8/6/2/2/5HT. Directorate of Nature and Environmental Conservation.

    Hockey PAR, Allan DG, Rebelo AG, Dean WR. 1988. The distribution, habitat requirements and conservation status of Rudd’s Lark Heteromirafra ruddi in South Africa. Biological Conservation 45: 255–266.

    Tarboton WR. 1997a. South Africa’s grasslands: the Cinderella biome. Africa – Birds & Birding 2(1): 57–60.

    Tarboton WR. 1997b. Whither grasslands? Africa – Birds & Birding 2(2): 49–53.

    Tarboton WR. 1997c. Grasslands: the way forward. Africa – Birds & Birding 2(3): 41–44.

     

    Allan DG, Batchelor GR, Tarboton WR. 1983. Breeding of Botha’s Lark. Ostrich 54: 55–57.

    Allan DG, Harrison JA, Navarro RA, Van Wilgen BW, Thompson MW. 1997. The impact of commercial afforestation on bird populations in Mpumalanga province, South Africa – insights from bird-atlas data. Biological Conservation 79: 173–185.

    Barnes K (ed.). 1998. The Important Bird Areas of southern Africa. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

    De Wet SF. 1991. Wakkerstroom munisipale vliegbied: drakrag bepaling. Unpublished report. Report No. OS8/6/2/2/5HT. Directorate of Nature and Environmental Conservation.

    Hockey PAR, Allan DG, Rebelo AG, Dean WR. 1988. The distribution, habitat requirements and conservation status of Rudd’s Lark Heteromirafra ruddi in South Africa. Biological Conservation 45: 255–266.

    Tarboton WR. 1997a. South Africa’s grasslands: the Cinderella biome. Africa – Birds & Birding 2(1): 57–60.

    Tarboton WR. 1997b. Whither grasslands? Africa – Birds & Birding 2(2): 49–53.

    Tarboton WR. 1997c. Grasslands: the way forward. Africa – Birds & Birding 2(3): 41–44.

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