Agriculture in the Overberg, Western Cape
Androcymbium sp.
Lotononis sp.
Overberg Lowlands location map
Overberg renosterveld original extent
Overberg Lowlands remaing extent 2012
 
 
dicoma sp.
AGRICULTURE & THREATENED HABITATS
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THREATENED SPECIES
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> HELP TO ESTABLISH THE RENOSTERVELD VISITOR & RESEARCH CENTRE.
Lowland Renosterveld is the relatively fertile, clay-based veld type that occurs in the low-lying areas of the Western Cape.
In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.

Charles Lindbergh
Western Cape, South Africa
What is Lowland Renosterveld?
Because of the fertile nature of lowland renosterveld, it has been exploited for agriculture - with the result that it is now a severely transformed and fragmented system (i.e. it has been ploughed and broken into lots of small, isolated pieces). It is considered a Critically Endangered veld type, with <4-6% remaining throughout its original range. Almost all remaining renosterveld is on private land - thus the future of renosterveld lies in the hands of each individual landowner.
Why the concern over its conservation status?
Overberg Location
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Original Overberg Renosterveld Extent
Renosterveld Transformation
Remaining Overberg Renosterveld Extent, 2012
Statistics: What remains today?

12 296 fragments are spread across 2021 cadastres (land parcels)
37 527 ha renosterveld i.e. 6% remaining
Fragments vary in size from 0.0001 ha to 835 ha
72 fragments are >80 ha
46 fragments are > 100 ha
13 fragments are >200 ha
The two largest remnants are ±800 ha
Renosterveld originally covered the entire clay / shale-based lowlands of the Overberg. These represent the most fertile soils of the region and so, were first identified as being most suitable for agriculture by early European settlers.
It is uncertain what exactly these habitats looked like in the past, as they were radically transformed (through livestock grazing and subsequent ploughing) relatively soon after European settlement. Adjacent to these habitats, are the mountainous and strandveld-type habitats, which are generally based on poor, acid soils and are less transformed than their renosterveld counterparts.
Lowland priority veld types in the Overberg
The Fynbos Biome comprises >160 different vegetation types, emphasizing the high levels of diversity within this incredible biome. There are four different types of renosterveld in the Overberg - all of which are equally threatened: Western-, Central- and Eastern-Rûens Shale Renosterveld and Rûens Silcrete Renosterveld. The word 'rûens' comes from the Dutch word 'ruggens,' which was used to describe the hilly nature of the low-lying, clay-based areas of the Overberg. Today, the 'rûens' comprise mostly croplands and renosterveld remnants.
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Other threatened lowland habitats in the Overberg include Elim Ferricrete Fynbos, Greyton Shale Fynbos and Swellendam Silcrete Fynbos. The Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust will focus primarily on the renosterveld habitats to begin with, but is equally concerned with the latter three vegetation types and will also be developing projects within these habitats, once resources become available.
Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust
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Key Threats to Renosterveld
Incorrect use of fire
Too little fire, too much fire or burning at an inappropriate time.
Incorrect use of grazing or overgrazing
Lack of sufficient rest for the veld after a burn
Fragmentation effects
Including edge effects and associated extinction risks.
(Illegal) cultivation of virgin land
Renosterveld Facts
Part of the Fynbos Biome: a system recognized as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots
Richest bulb kingdom in the world. Highly transformed for agriculture, due to its fertile soils.
Red Data Status: Critically Endangered
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Renosterveld is one of the richest ecosystems in the world, due to its extraordinary bulb diversity. It is part of the Fynbos Biome, although it is very distinct from Fynbos - the main difference being that it generally lacks, with some exceptions, the three distinctly fynbos elements: the proteas, ericas (heather) and restios (reeds). However, the renosterveld we see today is very different from what it was >300 years ago: before the advent of large-scale commercial agriculture in the Western Cape, renosterveld supported large numbers of big game (including Black Rhino, Eland and the now extinct Bluebuck) and was probably a far more grassy system (with some areas even having a very high Rooigras (Themeda triandra) component), with a much higher diversity of shrubs and bulbs. The combination of grazing (grass-eating) and browsing game animals of varying sizes maintained the diversity and structure of this system.

Sadly, the replacement of large game animals with small, selective feeders (cattle and sheep), combined with years of poorly-informed management (i.e. over-grazing and too little or too much burning), has allowed this special veld to become severely degraded and dominated by 'unwanted' shrubs, such as renosterbos (
Elytropappus rhinocerotis). Thus, the grey, 'drab' veld that we see today is probably largely a result of the legacy of historic overgrazing and is NOT representative of true renosterveld. Today, those areas that are well-managed retain the characteristics of renosterveld and it is clear that this habitat supports a diversity of botanical gems, incomparable with any other system in the world.
RENOSTERVELD
RESEARCH
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THE RENOSTERVELD VISITOR
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