The term "biodiversity" refers to the degree of variation of life forms within a given species, ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. It is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich, whereas polar regions support fewer species.
The Baviaanskloof supports 12 major vegetation types, and represents seven of South Africa’s eight biomes (see pictures in the lodge). In ecology, a biome is a major regional group of distinctive plant and animal communities best adapted to the region's physical natural environment, latitude, elevation, and terrain.
Many of the plant species in Baviaanskloof are found nowhere else on earth (endemism). Faunal diversity of the Baviaanskloof parallels its plant biodiversity. Some 310 bird species have been recorded – representing more than a third of all terrestrial and marine species in South Africa. Reptile species number 56, with 23 endemic to South Africa, and three found only in the Baviaanskloof. The area is also home to 17 amphibian and 15 fish species. Because of its diversity and complexity, the Baviaanskloof has been identified as a World Heritage Site.
The Baviaanskloof was once the home to 46 medium-to-large sized mammal species. Over the last three centuries, 14 species became locally extinct – including the lion, elephant and the black rhinoceros. The black rhino has since been re-introduced. Expanding the reserve size will make more wildlife reintroductions possible.
As one of the major water catchments in the Eastern Cape, the Baviaanskloof is vital to greater Port Elizabeth — the largest metropole in the Eastern Cape. The water supply from the Baviaanskloof is of such a standard that no additional treatment is required before consumption. Water from the Baviaanskloof is also used to irrigate farms in the fertile Gamtoos Valley.
Photos courtesy of Anneke Cilliers, Jaco Stofberg and thank you to Ronel Pieterse for identifying your bird and mammal photos so generously contributed after your visit here.