Study area: the Cederberg Mountains

The Cederberg region starts approximately 300 km north of Cape Town. The mountain range is named after the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis), which is a tree endemic to the area from the family Cupressaceae. The Cederberg mountains extend about 50 km north-south by 20 km east-west. They are bordered on the west by the Sandveld, the north by the Pakhuis Mountains, the east by the Springbok flats and the south by the Kouebokkeveld mountains and the Skurweberge (I know it’s hard to pronounce for the non-Afrikaans speakers). The nearest towns are Citrusdal to the southwest and Clanwilliam to the north. The area is sparsely populated. The dominating characteristic of the area is sharply defined sandstone rock formation (Table Mountain group), often reddish in colour.

Most of the Cederberg is a designated Wilderness Area (83 000 ha) and is administered by CapeNature. The Cederberg Wilderness is surrounded by conservancies – land owned by farmers but conserved in its natural state – so the whole Cederberg Wilderness area is closer to 170 000 ha. It is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and obtained World Heritage Site status in 2004. The predominant vegetation is Mediterranean fynbos in the wetter south and west, changing to semi desert scrub in the north and east.

Indigenous wildlife in the Cederberg includes klipspringers, grey rhebok, duiker and rock dassies (hyrax). Porcupines, honeybadger, Cape clawless otter, bat-eared fox, Cape fox, African wild cat, caracal and aardvark also occur. The Cape leopard is the apex predator.

The Cape Leopard Trust, along with Cape Nature are based in Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve that was proclaimed in 1997. It is situated on the drier eastern boundary of the Cederberg mountains.

This 12 800ha reserve, formerly a productive farm, is situated in the ecotone between the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo biomes, increasing the fauna and flora diversity of the reserve along with its historic and archaeological heritage.  The primary objectives of the reserve are to maintain the ecological systems & processes, specifically the ecotone process and patterns and to conserve genetic diversity and heritage of the area.

Map of the study area showing location, major towns, Cederberg Wilderness Area, Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve and the dividing line between the Karoo biome east of the line, and the Fynbos biome west of the broken line. Source: Quinton Martins’ PhD thesis.

Sources: wikipedia, the Cederberg Conservancy

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