New 85 000ha reserve proclaimed in Western Cape

2014-09-24 11:00
Wahlenbergia sp. (Photo: WWF)

Wahlenbergia sp. (Photo: WWF)

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Cape Town – A new nature reserve – the first in 20 years in the Western Cape – has been declared across 85 000ha of the Succulent Karoo region.

“We are celebrating an extremely vital moment in our country’s conservation history by protecting this seemingly desolate, largely under-appreciated area,” CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature SA, Dr Morné du Plessis, said in a media release.

“This land holds immense biodiversity, and plants have adapted to the arid hot climate making them beautifully unique.”

The proclamation of the new Knersvlakte Nature Reserve coincides with National Heritage Day and will add 85 000ha to the national network of protected areas in accordance with the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act.

WWF spokesperson, Andrea Weiss, told News24 the Knersvlakte is three times the size of the Table Mountain National Park and is situated in the north west corner of the Western Cape.

The reserve area is owned by WWF-SA through the funding of the Leslie Hill succulent Karoo Trust and will be managed by CapeNature.

'1 348 species'

According to CapeNature regional manager, Albie Cloete, the Succulent Karoo contains about one third of the world’s approximately 10 000 succulent species.

“About 1 348 species are found on the Knersvlakte of which 190 are endemic and 155 are threatened according to the red data book,” Cloete told News24.

CapeNature director of conservation management, Gail Cleaver-Christie, said in a media release that the diversity and high numbers of endemic plant species [in the reserve] makes the Knersvlakte a region of international importance with research being done by both local and international botanists.

“In the last five years, the number of known endemic plant species has increased from 138 to 186, which is an indicator of active research and interest in the Knersvlakte. New species are still being discovered.”

According to the WWF the vegetation is uniquely adapted to the harsh weather and dry conditions of the area.

Some 'succulent' facts:

Succulent fact 1 - Most succulent plants in the Knersvlakte are between 1-2cm in height...i.e. tiny

(Mesembryanthemum digitatum subsp. littlewoodii, WWF)

Succulent fact 2 - Knersvlakte succulents are generally between the ages of 25-50yrs...i.e. old

(Conophytum sp., WWF)

Succulent fact 3 - Physical micro-habitats took hundreds of thousands of years to develop so as to support life for these succulents...i.e. ages

(Monilaria chrysoleuca, WWF)

- Follow Dane on Twitter

Read more on:    capenature  |  wwf  |  cape town  |  plants  |  conservation

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