While interviewing Rozelle and Julian Abramson of Fynbos Fine Foods, Judy Bryant discovered a small nature reserve of extremely high biodiversity in the West Coast district municipality. She spoke to CapeNature to find out more.
Where are the Riverlands?
“Part of the area was historically a vegetable farm, producing sweet potatoes, butternuts and watermelons,” said Loren George, CapeNature PR and Digital Manager. “Declared a provincial nature reserve in April 1994, it’s divided into two, Riverlands and Pella. These are separated by a railway line that runs to the Saldanha Steel plant at Saldanha Bay, along the West Coast to Cape Town Harbour.”
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A haven to the endangered
The reserve covers only 1 715 hectares, but punches above its weight as it shelters some of the most extensive endangered habitat within the Western Cape, known as lowland coastal fynbos. This is composed of Atlantis sand fynbos, critically endangered Swartland shale renosterveld, Swartland granite renosterveld and the transitional areas in between.
This complexity is reflected in a range of diverse soils of varying water-holding capacities, which leads to many micro-habitats. It’s home to many highly threatened and rare plant species, with at least four species only found in and around Riverlands Nature Reserve; and the only place where numerous other threatened species from these lowlands are present in a protected area. Small game such as steenbok and grey duiker, porcupines, Cape moles, Cape cobras, mole snakes and tortoises can also be seen, as well as birds.
“The reserve is unfortunately not open to the public but is a haven for researchers, botanists and ecologists,” said Loren.
In addition to these natural treasures, the reserve is also critical for Cape Town’s water security as it falls within the Witzands aquifer protection zone. This aquifer currently supplies much of Atlantis’s water, as well as being a key recharge area for adjacent agricultural activities such as Fynbos Fine Foods.
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The reserve forms part of a land to coast corridor named the Dassenberg Coastal Corridor Partnership, which is an incredibly diverse area linking the interior to the coast. The partners are CapeNature, City of Cape Town Biodiversity Unit and the Mamre community. Riverlands is the eastern point of the corridor which links onto the Mamre community property, the Atlantis dune system and the Ganzekraal protected area (not yet declared) neighbouring the West Coast.
The reserve is managed by conservation manager Melany Duthie-Surtie, field rangers Nicole Breda and Patrick Wiltshire, with botanical assistance from Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (Crew) volunteer groups and CapeNature botanist Rupert Koopman.
Words Judy Bryant
Photography Supplied, Rupert Koopman; Anton Wolfaardt