The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve was formally launched in 2001.
It is one of some 400 UNESCO-registered biosphere reserves established around the world. It is the only “savanna” reserve of this type in southern Africa.
Waterberg Biosphere Reserve is situated within the Bushveld. The Waterberg, as the name implies, serves as a water reservoir for this arid region. It is an area consisting of low mountain ranges and escarpments with poor soils and a relatively low level of economic activity.
The vegetation is dominated by different veld types, which are characteristic in mountainous savanna areas. Some 77,000 people live in the biosphere reserve (1999), which covers an area of about 400,000 hectares.
The area has been inhabited over hundreds of thousand years and is one of the most important San Rock Art areas in South Africa. Tourism is the major source of income. However, people also practice cattle rising, crop production and are increasingly switching over to game farming for eco-tourism.
The biosphere reserve concept will help a balance to be struck between the pressures of the tourist industry, the need to generate direct benefits to the local communities and the conservation of the natural assets.
Attaining this balance is the goal of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve Committee which was set up after a five year consultation process with all stakeholders concerned. A series of technical action plans have been elaborated among which also environmental education programmes play an important role, led by the Lapalala Wilderness School.
Major ecosystem type: Tropical grasslands and savannas
Major habitats & land cover types: Sour Bushweld characterized by African Beechwood (Faurea saligna), Common Hookthorn (Acacia caffra), Red Seringa (Burkea africana, Terminalia sericea and Peltophorum africanum) etc.; steep slopes and cliffs, bare rock including the same tree species as mentioned above and with Albizia tanganyicensis and Combretum molle characteristic of the rocks; river-bank and freshwater habitats including wetlands, characterized by Mimusops zeyheri, Clerodendrum glabrum, Ficus thonningii etc.; cattle raising and game farming; irrigated tobacco cultivation; human settlements.
Source: UNESCO - MAB Biosphere Reserves Directory