Biodiversity

The Maloti Drakensberg mountain region is dominated by inspiring mountain landscapes and is home to global and local biodiversity, with unique habitats and high levels of endemism. Conservation International identifies this area as one of the world’s 20 mountain biodiversity “hot spots” with high endemism and notes that this biodiversity is seriously threatened.

The MDTFCA is part of the Grassland Biome (Mucina & Rutherford 2006) and thus contains a diversity of grasses and associated forbs. Other vegetation types include isolated areas of indigenous Afromontane forest (which are located on the south facing slopes in the region), wetlands of the region (including the characteristic tarns), alpine heathland, and Protea savanna.

The plant diversity and endemism of the region are related to the broad-scale altitudinal, climatic, topographic, and edaphic gradients, as well as the array of fine-scale micro-habitats caused by relief, aspect, exposure, and slope angle. The three bioclimatic zones are associated with specific vegetation types. The montane zone is characterised by Podocarpus latifolius forest and grasslands (withsome Protea savannah elements); the sub-alpine zone by fynbos and grasslands (with some Protea savannah elements) and wetlands; and the alpine zone by the ‘tundra-like’ heath, Erica Helichrysum, and grasslands. Apart from the attractiveness of the region which renders it a prime nature-and culture-based tourism destination in the sub-continent, the biodiversity of this area also continues to produce ecosystem services that can be classified as supporting (e.g. nutrient cycling), provisioning (e.g. food and medicine), regulating (e.g. flood regulation), and cultural (e.g. spiritual). They provide a variety of livelihood and well-being benefits to people, including security, materials for good life, and health.