Brandberg is Namibia’s highest mountain. Massive and conical, it is of ancient volcanic origin, situated in the central section of the Namib desert. Rainfall averages 100 mm per year. Basalt plains envelop the northern slopes, supporting slightly different vegetation assemblages to elsewhere. The mountain is uninhabited, but the ephemeral Ugab river flows past its northern extremities and supports traditional pastoralists. Owing to higher cloud cover, and accumulations of water on top of the mountain, relative to the surrounding area, many of the grasses on the mountain’s plateau-like summit are perennial, replacing the annuals common on the plains below. Grass composition may, however, change in decades with poor rainfall when both plants and some vertebrates disappear. The western side of the mountain receives coastal fog and supports higher vegetation biomass than other slopes. The valleys and gorges also differ in plant community composition because of the higher run-off in these areas.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The mountain is rich in raptors (18 species). Torgos tracheliotus, Aquila verreauxii, A. rapax and Polemaetus bellicosus are uncommon breeding residents, while Melierax canorus and Falco tinnunculus are abundant. The Brandberg inselberg and the Ugab river to the north hold many typical Namib species. The flat plains below the inselberg are home to Ardeotis kori, Neotis ludwigii, Eupodotis rueppellii, Rhinoptilus africanus, Ammomanes grayi, Eremalauda starki and Cercomela tractrac. Typical Namibian near-endemic species which occur in the gorges and valleys around the mountain include Francolinus hartlaubi, Agapornis roseicollis, Poicephalus rueppellii, Tockus monteiri, Turdoides gymnogenys, Phoeniculus d. damarensis, Namibornis herero, Achaetops pycnopygius, Monticola brevipes and Lanioturdus torquatus. In total, about 150 species have been recorded on this mountain, twice as many as found on the surrounding gravel-plains.
Non-bird biodiversity: Recent analyses show that Brandberg is at the centre of a rich vein of endemic mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants that runs north–south through western Namibia from the Sperrgebiet (NA019) in the south to the Otjihipa mountains in the north. No other area in the country is as rich in endemics as the Brandberg Massif; among the 90 plants endemic to Namibia, eight are found nowhere else, three of the country’s six near-endemic frogs, eight of 14 near-endemic mammals, 49 of 59 near-endemic reptiles, and 11 of 14 near-endemic birds occur on, or around, this outstanding inselberg. Brandberg supports a greater combination of endemic plants, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals than any other place in Namibia. As such, it is a critical conservation area in the country.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Brandberg is famous for its prodigious quantities of rock art left by nomadic people who inhabited the mountain from about 4,000 to 500 years before present. The enigmatic ‘white lady’ painting is visited by thousands of tourists each year. Thus this mountain is of particular importance within Namibia, ecologically, culturally and historically, and for these reasons it has been proposed as Namibia’s first World Heritage Site. The local community experiences problems with visitors as it derives no benefits from tourism. Community programmes similar to that at nearby Spitzkoppe may alleviate these problems, providing custodianship and some protection to the species and rock art unique to the mountain.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Brandberg mountain. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/11/2020.