This chapter examines impacts on the plants and vegetation of the proposed route of the N2
these terms need to be defined.
3.1.1 The flora of the region
Flora refers to the particular plants that occur in an area, with reference to species which it
confined to defined geographical ranges, and botanists classify the different ranges of species
into regions, referred to as phytogeographic regions, where phyto means plants. These are
very often associated with other features such as geology, climate, etc. In this way the world
has been divided into phytogeographical regions, each with its own distinct compliment of
species (Good, 1974). Thus, the Cape Flora is referred to, due to the species (or more
specifically the taxa, i.e. families, genera, species etc.) that are typically found in that region
of the Cape.
to the Cape region are thus those that form the natural characteristics of the
Cape flora and are confined to this region. Endemism is relative to scale, and it usually refers
to the distributional range of these species, with the distribution being affected by historical,
ecological or physiological reasons. Consequently, plants are referred to as being endemic to
a particular region, e.g. the Cape, Transkei, Pondoland, etc. Plants occurring within that
region are the endemics, and those which occur in the region and perhaps in a few isolated
cases outside the region, are referred to as “near-endemics” (van Wyk and Smith, 2001).
White, (1983) defined regional centres of endemism as geographical regions with a particular
combination of endemic plant species. He divided Africa into different phytogeographical
regions (called phytochoria), and in this way identified regional centres of endemism, where
each phytogeographical region (or phytochorion) had more than 50% of its species confined
to that centre, and a total of more than 1 000 endemic species. He also identified regional
transitional zones and regional moziacs, and floristically assigned the whole of Africa into
phytogeographical regions or phytochoria. Centres of Endemism are, therefore, determined
Endemic means restricted to a particular geographic region.
by the high concentration of plant species with a very restricted distribution (endemics). The
regions of White (1983) of particular concern in this study are the Cape region, which extends
from south-western Cape up the Cape coast, the Karoo-Namib, extending from the dry
interior towards the coast, the Maputuland-Pondoland region stretching down the coast of
south-east Africa and the Afromontane region which extends down the mountainous areas of
Africa into Southern Africa.
In addition to this regional classification of floras, a focus on the main centres of endemism
global scale. Each of these is referred to as a “biodiversity hot spot”, but they must have at
least 1 500 endemic plant species and have lost 75% or more of their original vegetation. In
other words, these diverse areas are under threat of destruction. Cowling and Hilton-Taylor
(1994) carried this approach further for southern Africa, and identified various hot spots
throughout our region. The Pondoland hot spot was one such area, and is therefore of
particular concern for this EIA.
Although this alternative way of examining floras is noteworthy, in this case the approach of
Pondoland region are referred to, and within the latter the Pondoland Centre of Endemism
(PC). The Pondoland Centre is sharply defined by the geological features and the derived
soils, as explained below (see section 3.2).
3.1.2 The vegetation of the region
Vegetation can also be discussed on a global scale, as it can be divided into various
These are defined by their dominant and diagnostic species. In this study, the recent
classification by Low and Rebelo (1996), who with the help of experts throughout southern
African defined various vegetation types in a distinct hierarchy, is followed. Many of these
studies drew on other works, such as that of Acocks (1988), or Lubke et al. (1988) for the
eastern Cape region. In the earlier biophysical scoping report for the N2 toll road (CES,
2001), broad vegetation types were defined according to Low and Rebelo (1996) for the
different sectors of the route (Table 3.1).
Vegetation Specialist Report
1. Coastal Forest
Coastal Belt Forest or Dune Forest (Acocks, 1975 - A1)
Highland and Dohne Sourveld (Acocks, 1995 - A44) Scarp
forest (Scott-Shaw 1999)
4. Dune Thicket
Dune Forest (Acocks,1975 - A1)
16. Eastern Thorn
Eastern Province Thornveld (A7), False Thornveld of E.
Cape (Acocks, 1975 – A21, Acacia savanna (Lubke et al.
1988); Savanna (Scott-Shaw, 1999).
42. Moist Upland
Highland Sourveld or Dohne Sourveld (Acocks, 1975 -
A44), Montane Grassland (Scott-Shaw 1999), Dohne
Sourveld (Lubke et al. 1988).
Eastern Province Thornveld (Acocks, 1975 - A7), Coastal
Sour Grassveld or Coastal Mixed Grassveld (Lubke et al.
1988). Pondoland Coastal Grassland (Scott-Shaw 1999).
Code: - absent; + present; ++ abundant; +++ very abundant.
Vegetation Specialist Report
The flora and the different vegetation types need to be examined in detail in order to examine
various families which are found in the area) may occur in very specific sites and be in danger
of extinction, and thus are of special concern. Likewise, vegetation types may be specific to
particular sites within the road corridor and also be of conservation value, both for the specific
species, which they contain as well as other important factors such as habitats for animals, the
presence of plants of economic importance to local people, or, simply by being structurally
unique to the area. Thus, in addition to the general aims stated above, the plants and the
vegetation types in which they occur were specifically investigated.
In the context of this EIA, the specific deliverables from this specialist study include:
An assessment of the potential impact on vegetation (i.e. plant species, plant
far as possible, the status of key species or families were quantified to assist in
The identification of the conservation status of Red Data and endemic plant species.
The identification of potentially sensitive areas along the proposed route in terms of
vegetation which would be required to be avoided where possible, or would require
Production of a vegetation sensitivity map.
Recommendations regarding appropriate mitigation measures for each phase of the
project, where required.
3.1.4 Conservation and tourism of the region
The most important site for conservation along the route is the Pondoland Centre of
of South Africa has been lobbying for the establishment of a large conservation area along the
Pondoland coast (WESSA, Cooper, pers com). The proposed Park extends from the north
banks of the Mzimvubu River at Port St Johns to the south bank of the Mtamvuna River
adjacent to the Wild Coast Sun near Port Edward. This is a distance of about 80 km. Within
the proposed area are a provincial nature reserve, numerous state forests, extensive grazing
areas and agricultural lands and villages. The total area of the proposed Pondoland Park is
approximately 50 000ha. The proposed Park is a unique situation, since it incorporates
formally protected areas as well as traditional communal land which is mostly still in a natural
state but used by the local people.
The proposed N2 Toll Road passes through extremely attractive natural areas and in many
Centre of Endemism (see Section 3.4) and would pass through sections of the proposed
Pondoland Park. However, the road largely forms the boundary of the Park, and only crosses
the areas proposed for schedule 2 (contract conservation areas). The road therefore stays
outside the core conservation area. Through discussions with the relevant role-players in
developing the Pondoland Park it is believed that the two projects can at the very least
accommodate one another and are in likelihood complimentary. This area has been
considered in terms of its conservation and tourism potential in addition to the present land
use of urban and agricultural development, similar to the strategic assessment of CES (2000)
on the resource use options in the Centane District of the Eastern Cape. The conservation and
tourism potential can be divided into different categories:
resources, e.g. Mkambati and Mnyameni Gorge region.
Sections along the route which could be regarded as gateways to the tourist areas along
Intensive and subsistence agriculture that occurs in various parts of the region.
Urban and rural village-type development with small homestead gardens, or small scale
Where the route traverses an area of great conservation or tourist potential cognisance should
way as to make it attractive and inviting to the traveller to explore these areas (Lubke, 1988).
One of the major aims of this road development should therefore be to enhance the area’s
attractiveness to tourists, and to develop it in such a way so that it is in harmony with the
principles of sustainable development. Therefore, in addition to identifying areas sensitive to
development further aims of the report in the greenfields section are to identify:
• Conservation areas of great potential that can be utilised for eco-tourism,
• Ways in which the toll road can mitigate against impacting upon these
conservation areas, and in fact enhance the area for future sustainable use.
• Synthesise the information and identify advantages of the toll road in opening
up this area to further sustainable development.
3.2 Geology and land form
The route just north of East London, across the Kei River to Port Edward is particularly
it traverses. It is this complex landform that gives it the characteristic name of “the Wild
Coast”. The flora of the route is closely related to the geology and landform, and therefore
these aspects need to be considered in detail in order to explain the distribution of the flora of
the Pondoland region in particular.
A general account of the landform (Geomorphology) is given by King (1951), and the
extremely broken in the coastal region, and made up of Karoo supergroup rocks. The route of
the road, therefore, passes inland from East London along this more gently undulating plateau
to Umtata. The route then traverses the dissected landform from Umtata to Ndwalane
(approximately 15 km north of Port St Johns on the coast), and then again inland to
Lusikisiki. The route from East London to Umtata (N2) and to Ndwalane (R61) follows
existing routes and is not of particular concern. However, the section from Ndwalane
northward along the Pondoland coast, where the greenfields route is under consideration,
received more attention in this EIA.
to the Mtamvuna River in the north influenced the landform. A number of coastal terraces
descend in steps towards the sea. Thus, there is a plateau that shows not quite uniform uplift,
with terraces with slight undulations down to the sea level. This whole region is dominated
by a smooth coastal-plain surface, and most of the rivers run straight in their lower courses
through land that emerged from the sea (King, 1951). Rivers in this region have cut
impressive gorges straight through the sandstone region to the sea, for example the Msikaba
and Mtentu Rivers.
The coastal terrace of the Pondoland is about 150-160 m above sea-level in tough sandstone.
to be in a youthful stage of dissection (King ,1951). In this regard ,the Pondoland coast
differs from that further south in the former-Transkei, and the more maturely dissected coastal
plain of KwaZulu-Natal. The general smoothness of the outline of the coast is typical where
the coast has been uplifted. There was subsequent drowning of the coast of up to 50 m above
sea-level, and the rivers during this time dissected the young canyons or gorges, but did not
open up valleys to an appreciable extent, hence the absence of tributaries along this area
(King, 1951). Consequently, the steep walls of the gorges rise from the drowned river gorges,
e.g. Msikaba River (Plate 3.1).
rocky outcrops on the margin of the gorge.
A distinctive change in the Pondoland coast occurs at Waterfall Bluff, where the Egosa Fault
the north. The contrast on the coastal plain on either side of this fault is striking, where the
rivers to the north have cut trenches directly into the sea, whereas those to the south dissect a
belt of rugged country (King, 1951). The interesting Port St Johns scenery is dominated by
the two heads or ‘horst’ that stand on either side of the valley of the Mzimvubu River, and
rise to a height of 380 m (Plate 3.2). The sandstones of the ‘horst’ are similar to those of the
beds on the northern side of Waterfall Bluff, the ‘horst’ remaining steadfast while the adjacent
region have subsided. This provides the interesting “Gates of Port St Johns” (King, 1951).
The section between the Egosa fault and the Msikaba Formation north of Waterfall Bluff is an
important phytogeographical discontinuity referred to by van Wyk (1990a) as the Egosa gap
(see Section 3.4.3).
with forest on either side.
The geology of the Pondoland region is characterised by the Cape Super Group rocks that
upon older formations and are followed by the Karoo Super Group rocks (du Toit, 1939).
Within the Cape rocks, the oldest recognised fossils have been discovered (Anderson and
Anderson, 1985). The succession of the Cape Super Group rocks (originally determined by
Bain in 1845) allows the identification of three groups (du Toit, 1939):
Devonian and carboniferous eras.
The Bokkeveld series (Group) – shales, flagstones and sandstones with marine fossils
Table Mountain series (Group) - thick unfossilised grits and sandstones with scattered
The sandstones of the Pondoland region (Plate 3.3) were originally considered to be allied to
reddish sandstones stretching north-east from Port St Johns though Natal into Zululand and
correlated with the Table Mountain Sandstone of the Cape (du Toit 1939). These sandstones
appear first at Port St Johns in a ‘horst’ or fault block some 18 km in length with an east-west
axis. Further north, a wide terrace belt occurs along the Pondoland coast, stretching into
KwaZulu Natal. The inland section of beds form a plateau lying nearly flat, while in the
coastal section the sandstones dip seawards beneath the Karoo beds and sometimes form the
Du Toit (1931) points out that the formation in Pondoland is identical in detail with the
felspar and are often false-bedded with scattered small pebbles. More recent studies have been
undertaken on the marine origin of these sandstones, identifying more fossils, the patterns of
the sediments and characterising three lithogenetic units (Hobday and Mathew, 1974).
In an historical review of the Natal Group sandstone, Loock et al. (1980) noted that the
Mountain succession in the south-western Cape. As more evidence unfolded on the marine
origin and age of these sandstones (e.g. Hobday and Mathew, 1974; Visser, 1974) it was
thought that these Natal Sandstones consisted of a number of Formations, the Msikaba
Formation being the most southerly, stretching from Port St Johns to just north of Port
Shepstone (Figure 3.1). The discovery of fossil lycopsid stems in sediments near Port St
Johns (Loock, 1973) shows that this formation may be correlated with the Witteberg Group.
Thus, the Natal group rocks are all likely to be the lateral equivalents of the Witteberg Group
of the Cape (Loock, et a. 1980). However, Thomas et al. (1992a) feel that the Msikaba
Formation should be equated with the Witteberg Group of the Cape supergroup and the
“Natal Group” restricted to these formations further north. Thomas et al. (1992b) made
detailed studies on the dating of these formations, which substantiate this view.
The significance of the geology is the distribution of plants in this region, as the endemic
grow in soils, which are sandy, highly leached, acidic and relatively shallow. Rocky outcrops
are common and the soils are mostly of low agricultural potential (see Chapter 2).