THE CAPE FLATS NATURE RESERVE
Ever since the
advent of European people at the Cape, natural areas on the Cape Flats have
come under increasing threats from various sources. Housing, industrialization
and agriculture have all taken their toll, whilst in many places woody aliens
have displaced the indigenous vegetation.
what is alarming is the poor conservation status of the Cape Flats. Western
Cape lowlands overall support the most poorly conserved vegetation type in
South Africa. About one percent of the Flats fall within official nature
reserves. The long-term survival of most of the remaining natural veld is not
guaranteed. Strandveld, for example, is highly threatened by coastal
developments and alien invaders and only about 32% of the original vegetation
remains with less than 1% conserved in small areas.
The concept of
a nature reserve on the University of the Western Cape’s campus originated
in the early 1960’s through the keen interest of a group of academics
attached to the University. With careful planning the idea reached realization
in 1977 with the official proclamation of the Cape Flats Nature Reserve under
Section 12(4) of the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1974. In 1978 the
reserve became a National Monument, today known as a Provincial Heritage site.
The Cape Flats
Nature Reserve is a private reserve and falls under the administration of the
University of the Western Cape. Although the reserve was first created as a
refuge for Strandveld and Coastal Fynbos, it now also functions as a base for
ecological teaching, environmental education and research.
Location and size
The 32 ha
Reserve is situated between 33 S latitude and 19 E longitude, on the
University of the Western Cape campus, Bellville South and can be reached by
following Voortrekker Road from Bellville and turning onto Modderdam Road, or
by following the N2 National Road from Cape Town and traveling to Bellville
(using the M12 ). Public transport is by train to Unibell station or by bus to
the University. The Reserve is bounded by the Belhar/Unibell railway line to
the south and Modderdam road to the north.
Cape Flats is covered with a deep mantle of Recent and Tertiary sands which in
the Reserve are calcareous in nature. A central area has NE-SW trending dunes
to 64 m a.s.l. and which is part of a now fragmented dune system to the north,
west and south. This area is surrounded by gently undulating flatland (55 to
57 m a.s.l.) while a vlei has been artificially created in the north-eastern
patterns follow those of the western Cape winter rainfall region (warm, dry
summers and cool, wet winters), with an average precipitation of 500 mm p.a.
with 75-80% falling during the period April to September. The average rainfall
for the period October to March is just below 100 mm. Mean temperatures are 26
C in January and February to 6 C in July. Frost is rare on the coastal flats
but is encountered one or two days a year in the Reserve.
of Cape Flats Nature Reserve can be categorized as West Coast Strandveld and
alkaline Coastal Fynbos. Strandveld is a broad-leaved, sclerophyllous scrub (2
- 3.5m high) restricted to the dune area, while Coastal Fynbos frequents dune
depressions and slopes as well as large parts of the surrounding flatland.
Coastal Fynbos also supports extensive pioneer grassland, indicative of
previous disturbance. Reed beds as well as peripheral wet-loving shrubs and
other forms dominate the vlei habitat.
A number of
major dune scrub, flatland and vlei plant communities have been identified,
bearing testimony to the wide variation in habitat and community species
composition found in the area. The broad communities are depicted in the
vegetation map here in this brochure.
indigenous plant species are found in the Reserve. Dune scrub is dominated by
the tall, woody shrubs, Olea exasperata (slanghout), Rhus lucida (besembos),
R. gauca (blinkblaar) and Euclea racemosa (bosghwarrie), while
flatter areas, the dune depressions and lower slopes have small to
medium-sized shrub elements such as Nylandtia spinosa (skilpadbessie), Phylica
ericoides, Zygophyllym flexuosum (spekbossie), Passerina rigida (gonnabos),
Aspalathus hispida, Metalasia muricata (blombos) and Rhus laevigata (ranktaaibos).
Reeds are prominent in localized places and include Willdenowia teres,
Ischyrolepis eleocharis (katstertriet) and Thamnochortus erectus (jakkalstertriet),
the latter forming fairly extensive stands on parts of the flats. Disturbed
areas of the flats are colonized primarily by the grass Ehrharta villosa
(pypgras), Helichrysum niveum and Tetragonia fruticosa (kinkelbossie).
include the sedges, Scirpus littoralis (steekbiesie), S. nodosus
(vleibiesie) and Fuirena spp., as well as Juncus kraussii.
is an important element in Strandveld and the Reserve is no exception. Common
species include Ruschia macowanii, Cephalophyllum procumbens,
Euphorbia marlothiana (rare on the Cape Flats and elsewhere) and Carpobrotus
acinaciformis (sour-fig), particularly in open parts.
Reserve is well known for its wealth of spring annuals when species such as Dimorphotheca
pluvialis (Cape rain daisy), Senecio littoreus (hongerblom) and Steirodiscus
tagetes form multi-coloured carpets of white and yellow on open dune
slopes. Also striking is the high number of bulbous or tuberous plants
(geophytes) which include Albuca Canadensis (soldier-in-the-box), the
fragrant smelling Gladiolus carinatus (mauve Afrikaner), Lachenalia spp.
(viooltjies), Babiana ambigua (bobbejaantjie), and Moraea
fugax. In autumn individuals of Brunsvigia orientalis (candelabra
flower) and Haemanthus coccineus (April Fool) add splashes of red.
plants of the Cape Flats Nature Reserve An interactive key to their
the low density of mammals, as with the Cape in general, the Reserve has a
good representation of small mammals. Apart from grysbok (Raphicerus
melanotis), small mammals include the Cape grey mongoose (Galerella
pulverulentus), Cape hare (Lepus capensis), Cape dune mole rat (Bathyergus
suillus) and at least nine species of rodent. Among the latter are found
the stiped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio) and the Cape greater gerbil (Tatera
eighty-two bird species have been recorded in or flying over the Reserve.
Common species include Cape bulbul (Pycnonotus capensis), Cape robin (Cossypha
caffra), bokmakierie (Teleophorus zeylonus), Cape turtle dove (Streptopelia
capicola), laughing dove (Stigmatopelia senegalensis) and speckled
mousebird (Colius striatus). Characteristic waterfowl and waders are
yellowbilled duck (Anas undulata) and Cape teal (Anas
capensis), blacksmith plover (Vanellus armatus) and three
banded plover (Charadrius tricollaris).
Snakes such as
the common mole snake (Pseudapsis cana) and Cape cobra (Naja nivea)
are fairly ubiquitous. The
angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata) is another reptile which is also
frequently encountered, as are several species of lizard and the Cape dwarf
chamaeleon (Bradypodion pumilus).
known to occur here include the sand rain frog (Breviceps rosei).
goals and objectives for the Reserve are to conserve and protect the
integrated ecosystems representing the natural fauna, flora and geological
features that fall within its boundaries. For management purposes the Reserve
can be divided in two areas, an older pristine area and a slightly disturbed
triangular area of approximately 12ha that was added in 1987 as compensation
for the part that was removed when the entrance road to the University was
constructed. This triangle was highly infested by alien invasive species such
as Acacia saligna and Eucalyptus calophylla. The entire are has
been cleared of alien invasive plants (except Eucalyptus calophylla,
which is regarded as a low threat infestation) and active management practices
have been and will continue to be applied in this area. For the remainder
management is geared towards maintaining the existing natural veld, by minimal
disturbanc and an extensive weeding programme. The weeding programme is aimed
chiefly at preventing the establishment of woody aliens, notably Port Jackson
willow (Acacia saligna). All Acacia seedlings, as well as annual weeds
and grasses are controlled either chemically or mechanically, depending on
their density and where they occur. Regular checks are made to the area,
especially in areas where accidental fires have occurred as fire promotes the
germination of Acacia saligna seeds.
It was decided
not to embark on an active revegetation programme for the highly disturbed
sites of the Reserve. In some areas, and as part of the educational programme
some indigenous plants have been established. The heavily disturbed section of
the Reserve, the Triangle that was initially covered by annual weeds and
grasses now shows a very successful natural return of indigenous species.
sections of veld that must be burnt in order to clear the area of moribund
vegetation. These areas will be identified and its viability examined given
the restrictions placed on burning in the Reserve.
nursery associated with the Environmental Education Unit (to which the Reserve
belongs) affords facilities for the growth and propagation of indigenous
species from this area and elsewhere on the Cape Flats. Some rare species are
also kept under cultivation, and one of the Nursery’s programmes was to
propagate plants from seeds or cuttings for introduction into disturbed parts
inside the Reserve.
Nursery produces plants for an indigenous outreach programme and for local
home-owners. The Nursery is also used for research purposes.
The Reserve is
listed as a core botanical site on the Cape Flats. Given the current
precarious conservation status of the Cape Flats, this reserve should be
conserved for its uniqueness as the only nature reserve that affords visitors
an opportunity of the original Cape Flats vegetation. Furthermore, it contains
two Red Data Book species (rare and endangered species). The Reserve provides
an excellent asset for the University of the Western Cape’s staff and
students as well as outside individuals. Several staff and students are
involved in active research programmes linked to the Reserve. With its
associated Environmental Education programme, the Reserve provides a much
needed service to many of the impoverished Cape Flats learners.