Site description (2001 baseline):

Site location and context
This site consists of eight farms (Otterhoek 768, Merino Dal 673, Waterryk 638, Kleinplaas 1613, Koekpan 660, Sterkfontein 353, Grootfontein 1844 and Groenfontein 331), located c.22.5 km south-west of Memel. The proposed Grassland Biosphere Reserve (IBA ZA016) lies just to the north. The site comprises a valley through which the Cornelis river flows. The river is bounded by undulating, hilly, high-altitude grassland on the plateau to the north and south of the river. To the north of the river there are steep-sloped hillsides, with some rock outcrops and cliffs. The plateau is higher in the east (2,055 m) than in the west (1,840 m). Uncultivated areas consist of natural sourveld grassland, with only a small proportion of the farming district being cultivated. The most dominant grassland type is moist sandy highveld grassland. Small patches of moist clay highveld grassland grow on the black vertic clays that are scattered throughout the area.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This area supports some highly threatened grassland species, including Heteromirafra ruddi, Spizocorys fringillaris, Anthus chloris and breeding Geronticus calvus. Several other grassland species, such as Monticola explorator and Eupodotis caerulescens, also occur here. The rockier areas support Saxicola bifasciata, Anthus crenatus and Geocolaptes olivaceus.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The IBA is located within a privately owned farming district and it does not receive any legislative protection. The land is used primarily for agriculture. Overgrazing threatens several bird species, as different intensities of grazing suit different species. Management practices such as burning the grassland in November, during the primary breeding season, may affect bird populations. Many important grassland birds have been seen on adjacent farms, and it is possible that the IBA should be larger than the area defined in this account.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Sterkfontein/Merinodal. Downloaded from on 08/12/2023.