Nature Conservation Significance Of The Reserve – Biota

Threatened and endemic plant species
The importance of the RDB and other threatened/rare mammal populations of the reserve relative to the metapopulations of these taxa, is difficult to quantify in most cases.

The predator populations are important to maintain in order to the broad ecosystem on the whole.

The largely incomplete list of reptiles, amphibians and fish does not make worthy their conservation status and baseline date on these species is vital.

Of significance is the Geometric tortoise, as it has a vanishing habitat.

RDB and other threatened or rare invertebrates

Again this baseline data is very incomplete and deserves a thorough study.

Special Plant Communities

Significance of plant species populations in the reserve

Due to its geographical position,
sited in between the Municipal Fernkloof Nature Reserve and the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board;
Maanschynkop reserve, Vogelgat provides the important natural corridor along the Klein River mountains in which plant species can continue their biodiversity.

Significance of populations of non-RDB vertebrate species on the reserve to metapopulations
Due the size of the reserve it is difficult to assess what the “non-threatened” mammalian taxa represent in terms of the overall metapopulations. One must consider the baboon troops that traverse all the adjoining reserves. The Klipspringer are adapted to survive in isolated groups and this is so for the small numbers present in the reserve. At times these groups are not visible and it would be of interest where do they disappear to and what pressures are exerted on them to shift their distribution pattern from time to time.

With the increased development pressure from man, minimum viable populations of these species should be undertaken to ensure their local survival.

A significant feature of the reserve is the fact that it serves directly as a source of recolonization by species which are not confined by fences e.g. amphibians, reptiles, birds, small terrestrial mammals, and fish.

As Vogelgat is relatively small in size it cannot be stressed enough, the importance of creating co-operative management with the neighbouring reserves and farms in order to establish a “biospheric” land-use system.

Non-RDB invertebrate species; reserve populations versus metapopulations

We have very little information at hand. As there are endemic plant species present within the reserve it is equally possible that endemic invertebrate species are associated with these endemic plant species. The reserve is important in the recolonization of neighbouring areas. It is important to undertake a survey of the present invertebrates.
Special sites and threatened habitats of practical importance

The nesting sites of the Black eagle, the streams, rock pools and waterfalls that create the right environment for the recolonization of various invertebrate species.

Secret Falls is to remain a wilderness area, only for the benefit of trustees, shareholders and researchers.

Remnant relic forest areas are of importance as these areas become smaller in size every time there is a fire through the reserve.
Special geological and geomorphological features and sites of special scientific importance.

Excellent exposures of the Cape Fold Mountains occur in the reserve, with fractures and faults evident. These were of such interest that a paper was prepared in partial fulfillment of BSc Honours in Geology, UCT: Deformation structures in the Table Mountain Group centered on Vogelgat Nature Reserve.

List of external threats:

· Alien plant reseeding from neighbouring land owners.
· Uncontrolled fires.
· Poisoning of carcasses could lead to disastrous effects on the raptor population, especially the breeding pair of Black eagles.
· Illegal hunting – In 1999 a large leopard was seen at the base of Maanskynkop and due to the love/ hate relationship between them and neighbouring sheep farmers we could ultimately lose our largest carnivore.
· Illegal trespasses – Increased foot traffic/ trampling, illegal picking of flowers, uncontrolled picnicking and over-nighting will increase damage to the natural vegetation.
· Noise pollution in the form of aircraft (especially helicopters) flying into the gorges.
· The degradation of neighbouring land in which this leads to peripheral conservation areas been depleted and therefore biological transfer been reduced greatly reducing the prospect of expanding biological diversity.

List of internal threats:

· Spreading of alien taxa that already exits, either as a standing plant or seedling.
· Wrong management practices, such as too frequent burning. This will lead to irreversible damage to the ecosystem.
· Recreational activities. These have a disturbance effect on the natural cycles within the reserve, such as pollution, desire trampling, soil erosion and visual disturbance such as too many paths and huts. Fortunately the reserves code of ethics stipulate: membership to be controlled (at present 350), no more paths or overnight huts to be built.
· The extraction of water from the Vogelgat River for the usage to Hermanus. This could become an issue in the future with the limited water available to the Overstrand Municipality and surrounds.
· Lack of monitoring natural systems and maintenance thereof.

The existing extent of the reserve is relatively insufficient to include ecological gradients, which could mitigate the effect of long-term climatic change and to allow spatial and temporal migration of certain plants and animals in the long term. Therefore it is important to encourage the formation of a co-operative between Fernkloof (Municipal controlled) and Maanschynkop (W. Cape Conservation Board controlled). Vogelgat initiated this in 1999 and it is our goal to become part of the core area of a proclaimed Biosphere of the Klein River Mountains.

The reserve does belong to a newly established Co-operative Conservation Effort with our neighbouring reserves and with the guidance of the Western Cape Conservation Board our goal to be incorporated into a biosphere will materialise.

Optimal expansion for the declaration of a Biosphere.

The initial co-operative agreement has been formalised between Vogelgat, Fernkloof and Maanschynkop reserves.

New developments in mid 2000 are that neighbouring land owners along our eastern frontier along the mountain chain are formalising a conservancy. These are to include the See acres, Crystal Kloof, and the Iveys to mention some of the participants.

Of great importance to Vogelgat and to Fernkloof reserves is the inclusion of the municipal land right below Vogelgat into Fernkloof Nature reserve. This acquisition allows for a natural corridor from the Klein River Mountains in the Vogelgat reserve, then through Vogelgat reserve, onto a natural wetland/ lagoon which then extends onto the dunes and then into the marine environment itself. This in itself conserving a number of different biomes in one area.

These areas will then be managed under one common denominator, thus eradicating alien plants, having one fire management objective and most of all conserving the full range of ecosystems.

Representatives of the reserve

Although the reserve has been influenced by past land -use activities, the restoration of the reserve over 30 years has enabled it to become representative of the biophysiographic region.
Uniqueness of the Reserve

Although the size of the reserve is relatively small, 600ha it is in the fortunate position been bordered on either side by nature reserves of similar size. This is an area without barriers to hinder movement and reproduction of the various species and so maintain a viable gene pool.

Vogelgat is an area of great scenic beauty for the botanist and hiker alike. It rises from just above sea level to 800m.

In the Vogelgat Kloof is found a unique variety of butterfly, while one species of fern, Rumohra adiantiformis found in the reserve was also found in Patagonia by Charles Darwin. Several species of plants of great interest to botanists whom traveled halfway round the world to examine them. The renowned botanist Rudolph Schlecter made extensive collections of plants in Vogelgat in 1896 and 1897.

At every season of the year there is much to delight the visitor. In July an arid looking north-facing rocky screeds is covered with the splendour of the sticky green heath Erica coccinea var. inflata, only to give way a few months later to a similar magnificent display of Caledon Bluebells (Gladiolus bullatus). In spring Erica holosericia and E. aristata, amongst many others, delight the visitor with mass displays, and in November Helichrysum vestitum covers the mountain slopes like snow.

There many plants of interest. One to mention is the unique Retzia capensis which stands alone in the family Retziaceae, and the Bruniaceae which is only found in the southern and south-western Cape. This family is well represented in Vogelgat, the most conspicuous being the tall stands of Brunia albiflors growing in damp swampy places on the higher slopes and enticing the passer-by with the elusive smell of coffee.

Another strange plant is the giant flycatcher, Roridula gorgonias, one of only two species in the family Roridulaceae.

Some families of plants are well represented and about 56 species of Erica are found. Of the Compositeae, at least 25 genera are represented and so far 71 different species have been collected. As might be expected the Proteaceae form a major constituent of the vegetation, with 7 genera being known to occur.