Kalkfontein Dam is situated 20 km south-east of Koffiefontein in the south-western Free State. Lying at 1 100–1 400 m a.s.l., most of the area is flat to gently rolling, with isolated dolerite hills rising from the flat plains. Watercourses are all but absent, replaced by pans or depressions that hold water for limited periods. Kalkfontein Dam is a permanent impoundment in an unpredictable rainfall environment. In the 19th century the surrounding vegetation was predominantly grassland (red grass Themeda triandra). Overgrazing, trampling and selective grazing by sheep and cattle have resulted in the virtual disappearance of the original perennial grass cover, which has been replaced by karroid vegetation. The habitat is in moderate to poor condition.
About 170 bird species have been recorded in the IBA. This wetland supports large numbers of migratory and locally resident waterbirds; the highest number of waterbirds recorded during CWACs (2013) was 13 556, representing 40 species. CWAC data show that there is significant variation in bird numbers and numbers of species seasonally and annually, as the dam's level fluctuates due to water being released for irrigation and seasonally.
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor, Caspian Tern Sterna caspia and Blue Korhaan Eupodotis caerulescens are the most frequently encountered threatened species in this IBA. Species not previously listed, namely Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius, Ludwig's Bustard Neotis ludwigii and Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis, have been reported in the reserve. The biome-restricted Sickle-winged Chat Cercomela sinuata has also been recorded.
The site regularly supports Goliath Heron Ardea goliath and Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis. The arid grasslands surrounding the dam hold Melodious Lark Mirafra cheniana and Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus.
Globally threatened birds are Lesser Flamingo and Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni. Regionally threatened species are Caspian Tern and Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus. Caspian Tern has been recorded breeding on islands in the dam. Congregatory waterbirds include Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus, African Spoonbill Platalea alba, South African Shelduck Tadorna cana, Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, Cape Shoveler Anas smithii and White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus.
The rare rock catfish Austroglanis sclateri, serval Felis serval and African striped weasel Poecilogale albinucha are all reported from the region.
There is an existing Technical Cooperation Permit for sections of the Free State, including this IBA, for petroleum exploration (shale gas), which is likely to be by means of hydraulic fracturing. There is therefore a potential threat of petroleum mining/fracking over the medium term around the IBA, but its formal protection status may exclude such activities within it. Another threat, which needs to be quantified, is posed by power lines.
The Kalkfontein Dam Nature Reserve IBA is under the jurisdiction of DETEA. The IBA consists mostly of the dam (artificial wetland–impoundment) which is used mainly for irrigation purposes downstream and water supply to Koffiefontein and a local diamond mine. A water users' association manages the water use of the dam. A recently installed pipeline supplies water to the towns of Fouriesburg and Jagersfontein.
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Christian, M. 2013. Short-tailed Pipit breeding and distribution records from the Eastern Free State. Ornithological Observations 4: 72–75.
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NFEPA wetlands map. 2011. Available at http://bgis.sanbi.org
Petroleum exploration and shale gas exploration applications maps. Available at http://www.bctwa.org/Frk-SouthAfrica.html and http://www.greenbusinessguide.co.za/fracking-plans-need-a-unified-voice/ [accessed June 2014].