Bottelary Hills Conservancy
Koopmanskloof is synonymous with great wines, but should perhaps be better known for its contribution to conservation, having been awarded membership status to the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative. The 220ha farm contains a 98ha natural area that was proclaimed a Private Nature Reserve around 1980.
The BWI is a pioneering partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector. The goals are to minimise the further loss of threatened natural habitat, and to contribute to sustainable wine production, through the adoption of biodiversity guidelines by the South African wine industry.
One of the strategies of the BWI is to identify and enlist interested producers as members or champions of the initiative, who will implement the biodiversity guidelines, conserve critical ecosystems and incorporate a biodiversity story into their winery experience.
This private reserve is situated on the slopes of the Bottelary kop, and consists of a remarkable 3 different types of vegetation - Swartland Shale Renosterveld, Swartland Granite Renosterveld (both of which are critically endangered vegetation types) and Boland Granite Fynbos (classified as an 'endangered' type of fynbos). This geological variation of granites and shales has produced a rich variety of shrubs, bulbs and grasses, which are still in excellent condition due to the regular cleaning of the area. Many protea species have been planted with many hiking trails which meanders through the reserve.
During his lifetime Oom Stevie passed on his long-standing passion for nature to neighbouring farms by not only being instrumental in starting the Vineyard Hiking Trail many years ago, but also by initiating the Bottelary Hills Renosterveld Conservancy, with the help of Tielman Roos from Mooiplaas.
The conservancy was formally registered in 2002 to protect the renosterveld fragments on the Bottelary hills, and currently has 35 members. The Bottelary conservancy has received funding in 2004 & 2005 from the LandCare program of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture to start clearing alien vegetation on conservancy member's properties.
Cape Floristic Region - a global hotspot
Located at the southern tip of Africa, the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) is by far the smallest of the world's six floral kingdoms.It has also been listed as one of 34 internationally recognised biodiversity hotspots.The CFR is one of the richest parts of the world in terms of floristic diversity and endemism: around 9000 plant species occur within an area of 87 892 km² and around 70% of these are endemic, meaning that they are found nowhere else on Earth. This degree of endemism is among the highest in the world.
What is Renosterveld?
Renosterveld is one of the most threatened habitats in the CFR, because so little remains. Despite this, less than 1% of Renosterveld habitat is currently formally protected. Along with Fynbos, Renosterveld is a dominant vegetation type in the CFR. While Fynbos grows on sandy nutrient-poor soils, Renosterveld tends to occur on more fertile and fine-grained shale, granite or silcrete derived soils where rainfall is a moderate 350 to 650 mm/year. At rainfall levels above about 800 mm/year soils are leached and Renosterveld vegetation becomes dominated by Fynbos elements. Generally, where the rainfall is less than 250 mm it is replaced by one of the Succulent Karoo vegetation types. Because it occurs on fertile soils, much of Renosterveld has been ploughed for agriculture.
Renosterveld is thought to be adapted to a fairly frequent fire regime however it seems that Renosterveld can generally persist for longer without fire than a similar area of Fynbos.
Both vegetation types are characterised by very high species diversity. When differentiating between Renosterveld and Fynbos, it is usually easiest to refer to habitat (which considers geology and rainfall) rather than species composition. A rule of thumb, however, is that the typical Fynbos families Ericaceae and Proteaceae tend to be uncommon in Renosterveld.
The Conservancy's flora is made up of Renosterveld which is characterized by the dominance of members of the Daisy Family (Asteraceae), specifically one species - Renosterbos Elytropappus rhinocerotis, from which the vegetation type gets its name.
Although Renosterbos is the characteristic dominant, many other plants are also prominent - for instance in the Daisy Family (Asteraceae): Eriocephalus, Felicia, Helichrysum, Pteronia, Relhania; Pea Family (Fabaceae): Aspalathus; Gardenia Family (Rubiaceae): Anthospermum; Cocoa Family (Sterculiaceae): Hermannia; Thyme Family (Thymelaeaceae): Passerina. All these shrubs are characterized by their small, tough, grey leaves. Grasses are also abundant. In fact, it is alleged that the high shrub cover is a result of continuous grazing. Early records suggest that the Renosterveld had abundant grasses, and that the game and Khoi cattle migrated over the region. With the establishment of European stock farmers, continuous grazing and the elimination of the diverse grazing-browsing fauna, the shrubby element was promoted. This theory is not universally accepted, but proponents argue to the sudden decline of hay near Cape Town in the early 1700's, and the many historical records of early explorers claiming that Renosterbos was taking over and that grass was becoming scarce.
Another feature of Renosterveld is the high species richness of geophytic plants chiefly in the Iris family (Iridaceae) and Lily Family (Liliaceae), but also in the Orchid Family (Orchidaceae). Proteas, Ericas and Restios - typical of Fynbos - tend to be absent in Renosterveld, or are present at very low abundances. There are few endemics to Renosterveld vegetation alone, many of the species occurring in Fynbos as well. However, species endemic to the Cape Floral Kingdom comprise about one-third of Renosterveld plant species.
(This section taken from Wikipedia entry "Western Cape")
Because of its high soil fertility, it is probable that all the herds of large game in the Fynbos Biome occurred in Renosterveld. Thus Mountain Zebra, Quagga, Bluebuck, Red Hartebeest, Eland, Bontebok, Elephant, Black Rhino and Buffalo were common, as were Lion, Cheetah, Wild Dog, Spotted Hyena and Leopard. Two of these only ever occurred within the Fynbos Biome, namely Bluebuck and Bontebok. Of these large mammals, only the Mountain Zebra and Leopard survived (by fleeing to the mountains), with the Bontebok just surviving near Bredasdorp. All the other species became extinct within the Fynbos Biome although some have been reintroduced into conservation areas from outside the region. The Quagga and Bluebuck are extinct.
This high soil fertility has meant that most of the area has been converted to agriculture. Less than 5% of West Coast Renosterveld remains with other Renosterveld types also heavily depleted by agriculture and urban development. It seems unlikely that viable populations of large mammals will ever be reintroduced into the FynbosBiome for this reason.
Many animal species are dependant on the existence of Renosterveld habitat. The precarious state of the geometric tortoise which only occurs in this veld type is just one example. To complicate matters at least a quarter of the remaining Renosterveld is infested with invasive alien plants. Eucalyptus, Wattles, Poplars and Pine species are notable. Besides their invasive action these species drain the area of valuable water which makes their eradication essential.
(This section taken from Wikipedia entry "Western Cape")