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Like many areas of the world, sub-Saharan Africa has suffered significant habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation. South Africa has lost at least 57% of its natural wildlife habitat through the activities of mankind (Primack, 1993).

Contracting natural habitats lead to a fall in the diversity of species present, and in overall numbers of individuals from those species within the habitats. The abundance of certain species is particularly sensitive to habitat availability, particularly Africa's larger migratory fauna that require large home ranges.

Research suggests that only about 6% of South Africa is under official protection, falling somewhat short of the recommended International Conservation Union figure of 10%. However, the ANC Government has announced plans to increase the amount of protected land, and this figure is gradually increasing.

The UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme is predicated on the belief that conservation of these systems can have economic and ecological benefits to the local and national communities. It is in this light that we consider the values of conserving areas within the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve.

The Kruger to Canyons Reserve consists of a diverse range of landscapes and ecosystems: four of the fifteen important types listed by the World Network of Biosphere Reserves exist here.

The region is positioned to contribute uniquely to the conservation of South Africa's landscapes because of the atypical interfaces between the ecosystems associated with the escarpment and the Savannah. The rapid change in the altitude of the land has created some unique niche habitats, each with their own endemic species.

The extensive savannah ecosystem found within the Biosphere Reserve is not currently a threatened system, and is probably one of the more resilient systems in the country. However, because of the size of the area that is protected (by the state and by private landowners), its value to conservation actually increases exponentially.

GRASSES

Grass is the ecological underpinning to the entire ecosystem.  Grasses belong to the plant Family Poaceae (Gramineae), which falls under the Class Liliopsida (the Monocotyledonae). The Poaceae (Gramineae) is one of the largest plant families in the world with over 10,000 species world-wide.

REPTILES, FISH & AMPHIBIANS

So far, there have been 147 reptile, 42 amphibian, and 57 fish species identified in the Biosphere Reserve.  There is very high endemism noted amongst the reptiles within the Biosphere Reserve (36 species).

INSECTS

It has been commented on previously that we are seeing progressively less insect life in more recent years. This perception, if correct, may be due to insecticide application for agricultural or health reasons or it may be due to more natural phenomenon’s such as variations in dry and wet cycles

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MAMMALS

Most of the protected land in the ecosystem of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere is contiguous, with the majority of the fences having been removed. This allows for relatively free movement of mobile aggregations of animals.


This large tract of land is one of the few remaining savannah habitats in both South Africa and the sub-continent, which enables the large-scale movement of faunal species.

BIRDLIFE

The bird species within Kruger to Canyons are of great interest to the local and international birding fraternity.  Ninety percent of all raptors and vulture species found in South Africa are here.

TREES & PLANTS

There have been more than and 2,761 plant species recorded in the Biosphere, with Mariepskop alone reputed to account for equal biodiversity as that of the Cape Fynbos system.

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