Biodiversity & Conservation
The Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC) is an initiative to conserve the biodiversity of the Greater Cederberg region across privately owned land, communal land and nature reserves. Its aim is to allow the movement and genetic exchange of animals and plants – from the West Coast eastward to the Cape Floristic Region and the Succulent Karoo.
Kromrivier plays a key role as it is a Cape Nature Contract Reserve (the Kromrivierkloof Nature Reserve). It in turn forms part of Cederberg Conservancy in which Kromrivier provides an all-important link between the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve and the Cederberg Wilderness Area.
The Cederberg Conservancy comprises a voluntary agreement between landowners to manage the environment in a sustainable manner. It consolidates 22 properties in the central Cederberg as one of the core corridors of the GCBC. The Conservancy is closely involved with the:
- Clanwilliam Cedar Tree (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis) rehabilitation program
- Cape Leopard Trust – conserving the rare Cape Leopard (Panthera pardus)
- Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) – demographic studies
Kromrivier is not only instrumental in conserving the genetic diversity and integrity of biotic communities but also forms a critical buffer zone to the adjoining Wilderness Area, a World Heritage Site.
- to conserve, promote and sustainably utilise the natural, cultural and historical heritage of this area
- to improve and maintain ecological resources and processes
- to conserve the biological and cultural integrity of the area
- to support sustainable socioeconomic opportunities that contribute to local economic development
- integrating biodiversity conservation and farming, applying responsible utilisation of natural areas with respect for the environment
- sustaining the well-being of the local people
- offering you the opportunity to re-discover the essence of time, wonderment, a sense of inner peace and spiritual upliftment
Tranquility and peace connects us with our physical and spiritual selves to reunite us with singing birds and wild landscapes, the sun and the moon, even to where our journey once began. At Kromrivier you may embark on such a journey:
- listen to the musical duet of the Bokmakierie
- feel the invigorating tingle of clear river waters
- breathe the crisp morning air
- feel the breeze touch your skin
- listen to the stillness of time
- walk the winding tracks through the fynbos
- see the twinkle of a sundew at the river’s edge
- marvel at the lichen on the rock
- feel the velvet of a protea
- stand quietly under millions of stars by night – connect to the mystery of life, of being alive! This is nourishment for the soul, amidst the pressures of modern life!
Kromrivier finds itself in the Fynbos biome – the plants being adapted to nutrient poor and acidic sandstone soils. Fynbos plants thrives in these soils but it in turn are also nutrient poor, difficult to digest and occur in rugged terrain. This is not conducive to supporting big herds of large mammals. There are very few predators as a result of a limited food supply. Birds are mostly small and are specialised feeders, adapted to Fynbos. The freshwater fish are unique. Reptiles and amphibians have relatively high species richness, many of them endemic or localised. Invertebrates are abundant.
Some special birds found in the Cederberg include the Black Eagle, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin, Protea Canary and the Cape Rockjumper.
The rugged mountains and deep valleys provide habitat for a variety of mammal species, such as the Klipspringer, Grey Rhebok, Rock Hyrax, Chacma Baboon, Porcupine and Aardwolf. The Namaqua Rock Mouse is an important pollinator of numerous Fynbos plant species. Some of the carnivores that occur here are Leopard, Caracal, Cape Clawless Otter, Honey Badger and Grey Mongoose.
The leopard is a top predator in the Fynbos mountain ranges.
The Cape Leopard Trust (CLT) was launched in 2004 as an active predator conservation organisation in the Cape. Leopards were previously caught in traps built from stone, a ‘tierhok’, and shot. The CLT used the results of scientific research to convince farmers to alter their attitudes towards ‘problem animals’ and use more ethical livestock management techniques. Current farming practices make use of Anatolian shepherd dogs to herd and protect livestock and lambs are kept in protected pens. Kromrivier supports the CLT by making use of Anatolian shepherd dogs and the leopards are free to roam in the Kromrivierkloof Nature Reserve.
The Krom River forms part of the greater Olifants-Doring River System, which has the highest number of endemic fish species of any river system in South Africa. Eight endemic fish species occur, namely the Clanwilliam Yellowfish, Clanwilliam Sawfin, Clanwilliam Sandfish, Clanwilliam Redfin, Fiery Redfin, Twee River Redfin, the Clanwilliam Rock Catfish and Spotted Rock Catfish.
Insects pollinate many Fynbos plants. Insects with a long tongue, such as butterflies and moths, pollinate plants with tubular flowers like Watsonia. Ants distribute and carry seeds underground where they are protected from fire. Termites carry dry grasses and leaves below the surface of the ground into termite mounds. This fertilises and aerates the soil. Termites are an important food source for the aardwolf.
Reptiles & Amphibians
The Southern Rock Agama is the most frequently seen lizard amongst these rocks. The breeding male displays a vivid blue head colour. Other reptiles and amphibians include the Berg Adder, Puff Adder, Coral Snake, Cape Cobra, Black Spitting Cobra, Bibron’s Thick-toed Gecko, Angulate Tortoise and the Banded Stream Frog.
There are six Floral Kingdoms in the world, of which the Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest, yet unrivalled for its plant life. It is also the only one to be found entirely within one country. Also referred to as the Cape Floristic Region – an area of 90 000 km², it is one of the world’s richest regions in terms of botanical diversity with an estimated 9 000 species, of which almost 69% are found nowhere else on earth.
The Cape Floristic Region comprises six Biomes, of which the Fynbos Biome is home to Kromrivier. Two vegetation types are encountered here, namely Renosterveld and Mountain Fynbos.
Iconic and endemic plants
The Cederberg is home to some 280 endemic plant species, meaning restricted to this area only. One of these, the iconic Clanwilliam Cedar, gave its name to the Cederberg mountains. It is found on rocky outcrops above altitudes of 1 000 m. This characterful and gnarled tree was once common in these mountains but is now on the brink of extinction. This is due to historic over-exploitation and it being a relic of a past climate not adapted to the fire regime of Fynbos. The Cederberg Conservancy is instrumental in the re-establishment of the cedar tree.
Another iconic plant of this region is the Snow Protea, which grows only on the highest peaks in the Cederberg, above 1750 m. Also iconic is the Waboom – the only tree protea, historically utilised for making wheel rims and brake blocks for wagons and furniture.
Fire is a key environmental parameter within the Fynbos to stimulate seedling growth and to retain maximum species richness. Fynbos vegetation is adapted to fire and is extremely flammable due to its high oil content and dry shrub load. However, too frequent fires lead to species decline and possible extinction. Late summer and autumn fires, every 12-25 years, are essential to sustaining the diversity of Fynbos plant species.
Fynbos species of considerable economic importance in this region include Rooibos tea, highly sought after for its health-giving properties and distributed on the world market. Another is Buchu, which is utilised extensively in the medicinal, flavour and fragrance industry.
Kromrivier is characterised by sandstone and shale belonging to the group of sedimentary rocks. These are formed when sand, clay or mud is deposited on the bottom of lakes or seas and compacted naturally to form layers of rock. Sandstone is usually formed by coarse particles of sand carried by flowing water, wind, ice or gravity. Mudstone or shale is formed by slow-moving water, carrying very small fragments of fine sand but mainly silt and clay particles, which are deposited on the bottom of large lakes or oceans. This is where fossils are embedded.
The Cederberg is characterised by its spectacular rock formations that were sculpted by wind and water over millions of years. The rocks in this area belong to the Cape Supergroup, formed 500-300 million years ago (mya), prior to the breaking up of Gondwanaland some 130 mya. The Cederberg mountains were formed by the upthrusting and folding of the sedimentary rocks and subsequent extensive faulting. Sedimentary, quartzitic sandstones of the Table Mountain & Witteberg Groups are relatively resistant to weathering, less so the shales and mudstones of the Bokkeveld Group. Mechanical weathering by means of water and wind has carried away grains and particles from a geological fault line, leaving the eroded incision behind that is today the Kromriver valley. The distinctive reddish colour of the rock is caused by iron oxides.
Kromrivier is variable and rugged, with steep valley fringes and high ridges that are orientated in an eastwest direction. Altitude ranges from 850 – 1700 m above sea level. On either side of the valley a steep incline gives rise to Dwarsrivierberg (1342 m), the Sugarloaf (1445 m) and Pup (1723 m) in the north and Winterbach peak (1536 m), Murraysberg (1649 m) and Apollo (1699 m) in the south. The watershed forms the source of the Krom River. Mountain peaks above 1000 m receive appreciably more precipitation than the valleys, much of it in the form of mist.
The climate is largely Mediterranean with cold wet winters and hot dry summers. The hottest months are generally January and February and the coldest July and August. Minimum temperatures in winter frequently drop below freezing to -5˚C and frost is common. Snowfalls are generally restricted to the higher mountain peaks. Summer temperatures frequently rise to over 30°C. The average rainfall at Kromrivier is approximately 410 mm per annum.
The geology of the Cederberg comprises the Cape Supergroup. Within this, the western mountain ranges consist almost entirely of sedimentary rock of the Table Mountain Group (TMG), containing four distinct formations: the Peninsula, Pakhuis, Cederberg and Nardouw Formations. A well-defined, narrow shale band known as ‘Die Trap’, gives refuge to a distinct suite of plant species – this is the Cederberg Formation, sandwiched between the Pakhuis- and Nardouw Formations. Towards the east, the TMG subducts beneath the Bokkeveld Group shales, Witteberg Group sandstones and sediments of the Karoo Supergroup (chiefly Dwyka and Ecca Formations).
- Witteberg Group
- Bokkeveld Group
- Table Mountain Group
- Cederberg Formation
- Nardouw Formation
- Pakhuis Formation
- Peninsula Formation