The centre of this IBA lies in the Mpofu District c.80 km west of King William’s Town; it consists of several interconnected montane forest blocks, the rolling grasslands of the Mpofu Game Reserve, and the surrounding fragmented urban and rural areas. Much of the area comprises steep cliff-faces with numerous small perennial and non-perennial streams. The area has several high peaks, including Katberg (1,828 m) and Devil Bellow’s Neck (1,726 m). The region supports an array of diverse plant communities, including both wet and dry forests, with scrub-forest and rolling grasslands at lower altitudes. Dominant plants of the forest canopy include Podocarpus, Xymalos, Rapanea, Ptaeroxylon and Vepris. Pinus plantations, which abut the indigenous forests directly, occur as small, isolated, scattered pockets throughout the area.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The forests in this IBA hold a considerable number of the escarpment form of Poicephalus robustus robustus. Populations of Zoothera gurneyi and Lioptilus nigricapillus are also found here. Other forest specials include Buteo oreophilus, Tauraco corythaix, Campethera notata, Cossypha dichroa, Cercotrichas signata and Serinus scotops. At higher altitudes, where the barren rocky slopes become prominent, Geocolaptes olivaceus, Chaetops aurantius, Saxicola bifasciata and Monticola explorator become common. In the low-altitude rolling grasslands Circus maurus, Vanellus melanopterus, Neotis denhami, Grus paradisea and Balearica regulorum occur.
Non-bird biodiversity: The Katberg-Readsdale forest complex, along with the Amatole forests (IBA ZA071), supports the highly localized Anhydrophyrne rattrayi and Afroedura amatolica.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The complex includes the adjoining Katberg and Readsdale State Forests as well as the Mpofu Game Reserve. Although this area was previously managed by Ciskei Forestry, control of all indigenous forests was handed over to the Directorate of Nature Conservation of the Eastern Cape Province authorities in 1996, and management plans for all forests are in preparation. Commercial forestry (SAFCOL) and smaller private forestry concerns are operational within and surrounding the area. It is important that their interests are monitored. There are no grazing or hunting rights as specified in the Forest Conservation Act, although resource extraction (fuelwood, bark, building materials, etc.) does take place. The boundaries of the forests are not physically demarcated and there is considerable movement of faunal populations between adjacent forest areas. Together, the complex forms a large forest network, which is likely to maintain its biological integrity provided no further fragmentation or habitat destruction occurs. Water-hungry non-native plantations, above indigenous forest zones, deprive indigenous forests of water, potentially changing forest structure and functioning. Plantations should be managed to ensure that the indigenous forests receive their water requirements.Other threats to the area’s forests include unsustainable harvesting of indigenous timber, targeting Podocarpus in particular. Poicephalus robustus robustus is threatened by illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade. Illegal hunting using dogs, snares and weapons poses a threat to several small mammals and birds. Grazing of domestic livestock occurs within the forest and at forest margins, resulting in ecotone degradation.