Mac-Mac Escarpment and Forests

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Located within the South African mistbelt, between Graskop and Sabie, this site consists of a patchwork of forestry plantations that still hold superb patches of fragmented indigenous forest, as well as some remaining grassland and sheer cliffs. The site consists of Mariti, Waterhoutboom, Mac-Mac, Frankfort, Bergvliet, Klipkraal, Rietfontein, Waterfal and Ceylon plantations. Approximately 60% of the area is under pine Pinus plantation, while the remaining 40% holds escarpment cliffs with associated grassland and indigenous forest.Fragmented patches of indigenous habitat may be found in and around the plantation matrix. The thornveld of mountain slopes holds scrubby Phymaspermum, Buddleja and Leucosidea along the streams. Patches of fynbos holding Erica and Protea bushes also occur. The forests, which are restricted to the more mesic valleys, are dominated by trees of Rapanea, Podocarpus, Trichocladus and Curtisia. Dense stands of non-native trees, including wattle Acacia and Eucalyptus, have invaded and replaced much of the remaining indigenous vegetation, and continue to spread uncontrolled, encroaching on the remaining grassland.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The rivers running through the area support small populations of Gorsachius leuconotus and Podica senegalensis. The remaining grasslands hold a relatively large population of Bucorvus cafer. Other notable birds include Saxicola bifasciata (grassland) and Promerops gurneyi (in the proteoid woodland). The forest patches are the most interesting natural habitat within the complex, supporting Stephanoaetus coronatus, Buteo oreophilus, Tauraco corythaix, Zoothera gurneyi, Lioptilus nigricapillus, Cossypha dichroa, Cercotrichas signata, Bradypterus barratti, Estrilda melanotis and Serinus scotops.

Non-bird biodiversity: Among frogs, the forests are known to hold Breviceps verrucosus, and the river also holds Strongylopus wageri and the rare, localized endemic, Heleophryne natalensis. The snake Amplorhinus multimaculatus may occur, and the geckos Lygodactylus nigropuncatus and L. ocellatus, endemic to the Soutpansberg and Mpumalanga/Swaziland Drakensberg, have been recorded in rocky montane grassland areas.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The remaining patches of forest in this IBA are of the Mpumalanga escarpment’s highest quality. The primary threat to these patches is that the remaining indigenous vegetation patches may be used for plantations, or that encroachment of alien vegetation from the plantations, or other sources, will affect forest functioning. Forest fragmentation is also of concern. The remaining land should be used for water management and nature conservation. Areas where exotics have invaded should be rehabilitated, and encroachment by exotic vegetation should be monitored and combated.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mac-Mac Escarpment and Forests. Downloaded from on 24/05/2022.