4. Namaqualand Uplands

The Namaqualand (Kamiesberg) Uplands encompass the highlands of central Namaqualand in the Northern Cape Province. The area is known for its spectacular displays of spring flowers and high diversity and endemism of bulbous flowers. The 33,500-hectare area includes 1109 species, of which 286 are Succulent Karoo endemics and 107 are Red List species. In addition to its diversity, the region contains large zones of transitional vegetation between succulent and Fynbos habitats.

Experts consider these zones crucial for continued speciation and resilience to climate change. Conserving this area will provide an important corridor between the Namaqualand National Park and the Central Namaqualand coast priority area. Agriculture, mainly grain production, has already transformed all areas of level terrain and overgrazing by livestock, especially on communal lands, is a significant land-use pressure on this area.

 Key facts

Highest mountains in Namaqualand, spring flowers, transitional zones between succulent and fynbos habitats.

Flagship species

Dimorphotheca sinuata, the Namaqualand Daisy, Longtongue flies, Oil-collecting bees, Klipspringer, and leopards. 

Famous places

The Rooiberg Peaks Trail, Historic communal grazing towns of Leliefontein and Tweerivier.

Pressures

Agriculture and overgrazing.

3. Bushmanland Inselbergs

The Bushmanland Inselbergs area is located on the northeast margin of the Succulent Karoo Hotspot, just south of the Orange River and the border between Namibia and South Africa.

The area is dominated by a plain of desert grasslands and peppered by Inselbergs, ancient rocky outcrops in irregular patterns.

These Inselbergs are important refugia for plants and animals and act as stepping-stones for rock-loving species migrating east west across the sand-covered plains of Bushmanland. Isolation of populations has led to diversification within the dwarf succulent shrublands.

In total, the 31,400-hectare area includes 429 plant species, of which 67 are found only in this hotspot and 87 are Red List species. Mining has impacted many of the Inselbergs, and a proposed opencast Zinc mine may devastate most of the spectacularly diverse Gamsberg Inselberg, home to two flagship endemics: Conophytum Ratum and Lithops Dorotheae. The Red Lark (Certhilauda albescens) is also an important endemic species, although severe overgrazing on communal lands in this part of the Bushmanland plateau is impacting its habitat.

Key facts

Refuge for plants and animals in a time of climate change.

Spectacularly diverse dwarf succulent shrublands.

Flagship species

Lithops dorotheae, The Red Lark, Burger’s Onion, Conophytum burgeri.

Famous places

Gamsberg Inselberg and Pella.

Pressures

Mining and overgrazing.

2. Greater Richtersveld

The Greater Richtersveld includes the Gariep region which has a staggering 2700 plant species, 560 of which are endemic. Since 80% of the plant species are succulents, this is widely regarded as the area with the world's highest succulent diversity.

Many endemic plant species, such as the Bastard Quiver Tree (Aloe pilansii), occur only in small colonies on the highest peaks. Populations of this species have halved during the past three generations. Gariep also has the highest cover, density, and diversity of lichens in the world with 29 different species, many of which are associated with minute embedded succulents.

Richtersveld National Park, which conserves much of the Gariep, is leased to SANParks by the local community, who have retained their rights to communal grazing. Overgrazing and diamond mining scars are both very evident in the region. Other pressures include the illegal harvesting and poaching of game, removal of plants by collectors and poaching of marine resources.

Although there are no large herds of game in the Richtersveld, Klipspringers still grace the rocky slopes and Grey Rhebok, Steenbok, Duiker and a few Hartmann's Mountain Zebra still occur. Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Carcal, Jackal, Brown Hyena and Leopard are sighted from time to time. Birds are abundant, particularly along the river courses and scrubland and the mouth of the Orange River, which is a breeding ground for water birds, and a RAMSAR-designated wetland of international importance.

 Key facts

Highest succulent and lichen diversity in the world.

Flagship species

Bastard Quiver Tree, Aloe pillansii, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Brown Hyena.

Famous places

Richtersveld National Park, the Gariep Rive,r and RAMSAR-designated wetland at the Gariep River mouth.

Pressures

Overgrazing and diamond mining scars, Illegal harvesting, poaching, and off-road vehicles.

1. Sperrgebiet

The Sperrgebiet in Namibia encompasses nearly all of the northern extent of the Succulent Karoo vegetation and is the only wilderness area in the Hotspot. Since the area has been held as a mining concession for the last century, it has been strictly off-limits to the public and scientists until recently.

The few scientific studies that have been carried out in the 56,100 hectare area have recorded 776 plant species, including 234 endemics and 284 Red Data List taxa.

This unique area boasts the highest levels of biodiversity in all of Namibia. In addition to the high concentration of endemic plants, amphibians and reptiles, wild populations of Gemsbok, Springbok and carnivores such as Brown Hyena live in this undisturbed environment.

Although mining has been the saviour of the Sperrgebiet to date, exploration for new mineral riches beyond the already transformed coastal zones is a major land use pressure and periodic use of the eastern grasslands of the Sperrgebiet as "emergency grazing" are also a concern for conservation of this fragile landscape.

Fortunately establishment of a Sperrgebiet National Park by the Namibian authorities is well advanced.

Additional information