Rare Kruger Game | Eland, Tsessebe, Roan Antelope in Rugged Veld Landscape
Fauna in the Combretum spp./Colophospermum mopane Rugged Veld … Gertenbach Landscape 22: Rare Kruger Game | Eland, Tsessebe, Roan Antelope in Rugged Veld Landscape
Buffalo and zebra are probably the most important game species in this landscape, but impala, waterbuck, kudu, giraffe and elephant bulls are well represented. Wildebeest are not very common. The role played by hippos in the utilization of this landscape must not be underestimated. Large numbers of these animals occur along the rivers and they graze intensively. Rare game such as eland, tsessebe and roan antelope also occur in the northern areas of this landscape.
Location and Geomorphology
This landscape extends from the confluence of the Timbavati and Shisakashangondo spruits, northwards as a narrow strip up to the rhyolites of the Lebombo Mountains. To the north it follows the lower lying areas of the Lebombo Mountains and widens again at the Shingwedzi River as far west as the Nkokodzi spruit. The slopes of the Tsende River are also reckoned as part of this landscape. The underlying parent material of this area is basalt with a large amount of outcrops of tuff and breccia in the vicinity of Shamiriri and rhyolite along the Timbavati and Olifants Rivers. Outcrops of limburgyte (Schutte 1974) also occur north of the Letaba River. The narrow strip along the pediment of the Lebombo Mountains originates from colluvium of rhyolite.
The landscape is characterized as flat plains, interchanging with a series of outcrops as described above. Koppies such as Shamiriri and Shithaburi, are very conspicuous in the Olifants/Letaba area and the slopes are much steeper. The outcrops around Mooiplaas viz. Bowkerkop and Shipandani are limburgyte.
The area is low lying (between 200 and 300 metres a.s.l.) and therefore it usually forms the lower slopes of the Olifants, Timbavati, Letaba and Shingwedzi Rivers and larger spruits including the Tsende, Mkhadzi, Hlamfu and Nkokodzi. The landscape covers 894 km/2 or 4.6 percent of the area of the KNP.
The average rainfall for this landscape is low and varies between 450 and 500 mm per annum. The averages for Letaba and Shingwedzi are 462 and 471 mm respectively. The temperature is high in summer with no frost in winter. Table 5 and 6 provide the temperature data for Letaba and Shingwedzi which is applicable to this landscape.
The soils of this landscape are relatively shallow. On the numerous koppies and outcrops shallow, stony soil of the Mispah Form occurs. In the low lying areas the soil is deeper and the following soil Forms can be expected: Milkwood, Mayo, Bonheim, Glenrosa and Swartland. The skeletal soils of the rhyolite of the Lebombo Mountains contains much sodium and soils with a strong structure in the B-horizon normally develop. This is the case with this part of the landscape situated at the pediment of the Lebombo range. Dominant soil Forms in this case are Valsrivier, Swartland, Sterkspruit and Estcourt.
The vegetation of this landscape can basically be divided into three components. The first occurring on stony outcrops, the second in bottomlands and finally along the Lebombo pediment. The woody plant species that occur on the shallow soil on the koppies is comparable to those of Landscape 21. The following species are very common: Combretum apiculatum, Colophospermum mopane, Kirkia acuminata, Sterculia rogersii, Boscia albitrunca, Combretum mossambicense, Commiphora mollis, Manilkara mochisia, Terminalia prunioides, Pappea capensis, Ptaeroxylon obliquum and Spirostachys africana, Panicum maximum is the dominant grass.
The vegetation of the plains between the outcrops is an open shrub savanna that is dominated by Colophospermum mopane (Fig.50). Other woody plants that occur are Combretum apiculatum, Terminalia prunioides, Maerua parvifolia, Combretum mossambicense, Acacia nigrescens, A. tortilis, A. exuvialis, Grewia bicolor and Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. africana. The field layer is dense and the dominant grasses are the following: Panicum maximum, Aristida congesta subsp. barbicollis, Bothriochloa radicans, Urochloa mosambicensis, Tragus berteronianus, Heteropogon contortus, Rhynchelytrum repens, Enneapogon cenchroides, Schmidtia pappophoroides, Cenchrus ciliaris, Digitaria eriantha var. pentzii, Eragrostis superba and Fingerhutia africana. Forbs are very abundant and the following deserve mentioning: Heliotropium steudneri, Tephrosia polystachya, Phyllanthus asperulatus, Asparagus plumosus, Ceratotheca triloba, Euphorbia neopolycnemoides, Dicoma tomentosa, Crabbea velutina, Cyphocarpa angustifolia, Hibiscus micranthus, Seddera capense, Sansevieria hyacinthoides, Rhynchosia totta, Melhania rehmannii, Clerodendrum ternatum, Leucas glabrata and Indigofera bainesii.
Fig. 50 Landscape 22. Combretum spp./Colophospermum mopane Rugged Veld – page 81
Fig. 51. Landscape 22. Colophospermum mopane trees along the foot of the Lebombo Mountains. – page 81
The vegetation on the skeletal soils of the Lebombo Mountain is comparable to the vegetation of the Colophospermum mopane Forest (Landscape 15). Two variations can be distinguishes. On the soils with a strong structure (Sterkspruit Form) the mopane are severely stunted and the field layer is almost absent (Fig. 52). The structure of the woody vegetation is simple, to such an extent that the 0.5 to 2 metres layer dominates with a 35-50 percent crown cover. No taller plants occur. The mopane is therefore stunted due to the strong structure of the soils. Woody species associated with Colophospermum mopane are Salvadora angustifolia, Maerua parvifolia, Euclea divinorum, Cissus cornifolia, Rhigozum zambesiacum, Albizia harveyi, Ormocarpum trichocarpum, Acacia exuvialis and ehretia rigida. In the vicinity of the Shawu-plots dense stands of Acacia borleae also occur in this landscape.
Dense mopane forest similar to Landscape 15 develops on the soils with pedocutanic structure (Valsrivier and Swartland). Once again Colophospermum mopane dominates, but both as trees and shrubs (Fig. 51). Other woody species occurring are Euclea divinorum, Zanthoxylum humilis, Salvadora angustifolia, Grewia bicolor, Acacia exuvialis, Securinega virosa, Maerua parvifolia, Ehretia rigida, Dalbergia melanoxylon, Acacia nigrescens, Combretum imberbe and Sclerocarya caffra, Adansonia digitata occurs on the koppies near Mooiplaas, but they currently suffer from bad damage by elephant.
The field layer of both these variations is spares and the following grass species occur constantly: Urochloa mosambicensis, Panicum maximum, Bothriochloa radicans, Aristida congesta subsp. barbicollis, Chloris roxburghiana, Digitaria eriantha var. pentzii, Eragrostis superba, E. rigidior, Urochloa brachyuran, Schmidtia pappophoroides, Sporobolus fimbriatus, Panicum coloratum, Heteropogon contortus and Themeda triandra.
Fig. 52. Landscape 22. Colophospermum mopane shrubs along the foot of the Lebombo Mountains. – page 82
Dominant forbs are Tephrosia polystachya, Corchorus asplenifolius, Cyperus rupestris, Dyschoriste rogersii, Sericorema remotiflora, Thunbergia dregeana, Ruellia patula and a series of other species. The vegetation of the spruits and river banks correspond with that of the Landscape 21.