PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency

 
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS &
   ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE,
  MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE
          NATIONAL PARK
    Baseline Terrestrial Ecology Study &
          Sensitivity Assessment

                                APRIL 2018

Prepared for:   Peter Velcich
                NuLeaf Planning and Environmental
                PostNet Suite 168
                Private Bag X 844
                Silverton 0127

Prepared by:    Warren McCleland
                ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
                Postnet Suite 192
                Private Bag X2
                Raslouw 0109
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                                                                                            APR 2018

                                                               TABLE OF CONTENTS

     LIST OF TABLES............................................................................................................................................ 3
     LIST OF FIGURES .......................................................................................................................................... 3
     ABBREVIATIONS ........................................................................................................................................... 5
     TERMINOLOGY .............................................................................................................................................. 5
     DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE ......................................................................................................... 6
     1.      INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................................................... 7
     2.      TERMS OF REFERENCE ...................................................................................................................... 8
     3. STUDY AREA.............................................................................................................................................. 9
     4. METHODS ................................................................................................................................................. 11
          4.1 FLORA .................................................................................................................................................... 11
          4.2 FAUNA .................................................................................................................................................... 11
          4.3 BIODIVERSITY VALUE ASSESSMENT ....................................................................................................... 12
          4.4 ASSUMPTIONS, LIMITATIONS AND KNOWLEDGE GAPS ........................................................................... 13
            4.4.1 Seasonality .................................................................................................................................... 13
            4.4.2 Overlooked Species ..................................................................................................................... 13
     5. BIODIVERSITY BASELINE DESCRIPTION.......................................................................................... 14
          5.1 FLORA .................................................................................................................................................... 14
            5.1.1 Regional Context .......................................................................................................................... 14
            5.1.2 Local Vegetation Communities ................................................................................................... 15
            5.1.3 Conservation-Important Flora...................................................................................................... 21
          5.2 TERRESTRIAL FAUNA ............................................................................................................................. 26
            5.2.1 Mammals ....................................................................................................................................... 26
            5.2.2 Birds ............................................................................................................................................... 26
            5.2.3 Reptiles & Frogs ........................................................................................................................... 29
     6. SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT ................................................................................................................. 30
     7. KEY POTENTIAL IMPACTS ................................................................................................................... 31
     8. CONCLUSION & RECOMMENDATIONS .............................................................................................. 32
     9. REFERENCES .......................................................................................................................................... 33
     10. APPENDICES ......................................................................................................................................... 34
          APPENDIX 1. CHECKLIST OF FLORA RECORDED DURING FIELDWORK ........................................................... 34
          APPENDIX 2. POTENTIALLY OCCURRING PLANT SPECIES OF CONSERVATION CONCERN ............................... 38
          APPENDIX 3. CO-ORDINATES OF PLANTS OF CONSERVATION-IMPORTANCE RECORDED DURING FIELDWORK
          ..................................................................................................................................................................... 40
          APPENDIX 4. CHECKLIST OF FAUNA RECORDED DURING FIELDWORK ........................................................... 47
          APPENDIX 5. POTENTIALLY OCCURRING FAUNA OF CONSERVATION CONCERN............................................. 53
          APPENDIX 6. BIODIVERSITY VALUES OF VEGETATION COMMUNITIES ........................................................... 55
          APPENDIX 7. CURRICULUM VITAE OF DUNCAN MCKENZIE ................................ ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT DEFINED.
          APPENDIX 8. SPECIALISTS DECLARATION .................................................................................................... 58

                          ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
                  2       Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                          (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                                                                       APR 2018

     List of Tables
     Table 1. Sensitivity Driver Scores ................................................................................................................ 12
     Table 2. Overall Sensitivity and Importance Scores................................................................................... 12
     Table 3. Protected plant species confirmed during fieldwork .................................................................... 21
     Table 4. Most frequently encountered species in the Woodland Assemblage ........................................ 28
     Table 5. Sensitivity Assessment of Proposed Roads................................................................................. 30

     List of Figures
     Figure 1. Location of Study Area.................................................................................................................. 10
     Figure 2. Photographs of different forms of Acacia - Combretum Plains Woodland............................... 16
     Figure 3. Photographs of Broad-leaved Woodland (Dassie Road)........................................................... 18
     Figure 4. Photographs of Riparian Woodland / Thicket ............................................................................. 19
     Figure 5. Photographs of Riparian Grassland / Wetland ........................................................................... 20
     Figure 6. Vegetation communities within 200m buffer along proposed roads (1) ......................... 22
     Figure 7. Vegetation communities within 200m buffer along proposed roads (2) ......................... 23
     Figure 8. Vegetation communities within 200m buffer along proposed roads (3) ......................... 24
     Figure 9. Vegetation communities in the vicinity of the additional infrastructure units............... 25
     Figure 10. Species accumulation curve for November 2017 fieldwork .................................................... 27

                      ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
                3     Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                      (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                                                                   APR 2018

                EIA REGULATIONS SPECIALISTS REPORT CHECKLIST

          (1) A specialist report prepared in terms of the 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations must contain-

           (a) details of-

                (i) the specialist who prepared the report; and                                                                           page 7

                (ii) the expertise of that specialist to compile a specialist report including a curriculum vitae;                        page 53

          (b) a declaration that the specialist is independent in a form as may be specified by the competent authority;                  page 56

          (c) an indication of the scope of, and the purpose for which, the report was prepared;                                          page 8

          (d) the date and season of the site investigation and the relevance of the season to the outcome of the assessment;             page 12

          (e) a description of the methodology adopted in preparing the report or carrying out the specialised process;                   page 10

          (f) the specific identified sensitivity of the site related to the activity and its associated structures and infrastructure;   page 28

          (g) an identification of any areas to be avoided, including buffers;                                                            page 28
           (h) a map superimposing the activity including the associated structures and infrastructure on the environmental
                                                                                                                                          page 21
          sensitivities of the site including areas to be avoided, including buffers;

          (i) a description of any assumptions made and any uncertainties or gaps in knowledge;                                           page 12
           (j) a description of the findings and potential implications of such findings on the impact of the proposed activity,
                                                                                                                                          page 29
          including identified alternatives on the environment;

          (k) any mitigation measures for inclusion in the EMPr;                                                                          page 30

      X    (l) any conditions for inclusion in the environmental authorisation;                                                              n/a

          (m) any monitoring requirements for inclusion in the EMPr or environmental authorisation;                                         n/a

           (n) a reasoned opinion-

                (i) as to whether the proposed activity or portions thereof should be authorised; and                                     page 30
                  (ii) if the opinion is that the proposed activity or portions thereof should be authorised, any avoidance,
                 management and mitigation measures that should be included in the EMPr, and where applicable, the closure                page 30
                  plan;
           (o) a description of any consultation process that was undertaken during the course of preparing the specialist
      X                                                                                                                                      n/a
          report;
           (p) a summary and copies of any comments received during any consultation process and where applicable all
      X                                                                                                                                      n/a
          responses thereto; and

          (q) any other information requested by the competent authority.                                                                   n/a

                    ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
             4      Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                    (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                        APR 2018

     Abbreviations
     IBA                        Important Bird Area
     IUCN                       International Union for Conservation of Nature
     mamsl                      Metres Above Mean Sea Level
     NEMBA ToPS                 National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act Threatened
                                or Protected Species (No. 10 of 2004)
     NFA                        National Forest Act (No. 30 of 1998)
     QDS                        Quarter Degree Square, for example 2431 AC

     Terminology

     Alien                      Introduced from elsewhere: neither endemic nor indigenous.
     Biodiversity               The structural, functional and compositional attributes of an area,
                                ranging from genes to landscapes.
     Epiphytic                  Living on the surface of other plants without causing harm
     Geophyte                   Plants that produce their growth points from organs stored below
                                the ground, an adaption to survive frost, drought and / or fire.
     Transformed                Transformed ecosystems are no longer natural and contain little or
                                no   indigenous    flora.   Examples   include   agricultural   lands,
                                plantations, urban areas, etc.

                 ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
             5   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                 (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                     APR 2018

     Declaration of Independence
     We declare that we have been appointed as independent consulting ecologists with no
     affiliation with or vested financial interests in the proponent, other than for work performed
     under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2010. We have no conflicting
     interests in the undertaking of this activity and have no interests in secondary developments
     resulting from the authorisation of this project. Remuneration for our services by the proponent
     is not linked to approval by any decision-making authority responsible for authorising this
     development.

     W.L. McCleland                                       28 April 2018

                ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
            6   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                         APR 2018

     1. INTRODUCTION
     Marakele Park (Pty) Ltd intends to apply for Environmental Authorisation from the National
     Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) for the proposed establishment of approximately
     20 km of additional game viewing tracks, as well as two Sala massage units and additional
     accommodation units within the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park, Limpopo
     Province. ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC was appointed by Peter Velcich of NuLeaf
     Planning and Environmental to perform an ecology survey of these proposed roads and
     additional infrastructure, which will form part of the EIA for this project. This study will provide
     a basis for assessing potential impacts of the proposed project on terrestrial ecology and guide
     the design and location of the infrastructure. The study comprised flora and key vertebrate
     fauna (mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs) and took place over three days in November 2017.

     The study team was as follows:

     Warren McCleland (Terrestrial Ecologist). Warren is the owner and director of ECOREX
     Consulting Ecologists CC, a consultancy of flora and vertebrate fauna specialists based in
     Mpumalanga, South Africa. He has been involved in specialist biodiversity assessments for a
     wide range of developments, particularly mining, throughout sub-Saharan Africa over the past
     14 years. Countries of work experience outside of South Africa include Democratic Republic
     of the Congo, Republic of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi,
     Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland. Warren is the co-author of the “Field Guide to the Trees
     & Shrubs of Mpumalanga & Kruger National Park” (2002), for which he was awarded the
     Marloth Medal from the Botanical Society of South Africa, and is currently working on a field
     guide to the Wildflowers of the Kruger National Park. A more detailed CV is presented in
     Appendix 6.

     Linda McKenzie (GIS Specialist). Linda is a GIS Specialist/GIS Analyst with over 12 years’
     experience in the industry. For the last four years she has operated her own GIS Consultancy
     called Digital Earth. She has extensive experience in both the private and public sector, as
     has worked on a wide variety of projects and GIS applications. These include, most recently,
     vegetation and sensitivity mapping, landcover data capture, municipal roads master planning,
     hydroelectric scheme and wind farm feasibility mapping and town planning, land surveyor and
     engineering support services. Linda currently serves as treasurer for GISSA Mpumalanga and
     is a registered Professional GISc Practitioner (PGP0170).

                ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
            7   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                 APR 2018

     2.       TERMS OF REFERENCE

     A. Conduct an assessment of the terrestrial ecosystems within the project area (vertebrate
          fauna and flora), which will include the following:

          o   Brief description of vegetation communities;

          o   Overview of potentially occurring plant species of conservation concern;

          o   Vegetation Map;

          o   Description of bird assemblages;

          o   Overview of potentially occurring fauna species of conservation concern (mammals,
              birds, reptiles and frogs).

     B. Assessment of the Ecological Sensitivity of the habitats represented at each of the
          proposed roads and additional infrastructure.

     C. Deliverables:
          •   A report on Terrestrial Ecosystems, comprising:
                  o   Description of receiving environment (biodiversity baseline);
                  o   Vegetation Map;
                  o   Ecological Sensitivity assessment;
                  o   Recommendations regarding infrastructure layout, where relevant.

                  ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
              8   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                  (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                  APR 2018

     3. STUDY AREA
     The proposed development is located in the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park,
     in the Lephalale Local Municipality, approximately 50 km north-east of Thabazimbi, Limpopo
     Province (Figure 1). The project comprises the establishment of approximately 20 km of
     additional game viewing tracks within the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park.
     The following additional infrastructure were added to the project footprint in 2018, but were
     not surveyed in the field:
        •   One additional two-bed guest unit (120m2) with pedestrian footpath at the existing
            Marataba Trails Lodge;
        •   Two staff accommodation units (190m2) at the existing Marataba Trails Lodge to
            replace the existing staff tents;
        •   One Massage Sala (Spa) structure (35m2) and pedestrian footpath at the existing
            Marataba Trails Lodge;
        •   One Massage Sala (Spa) structure (35m2) at the existing Marataba Safari Lodge.

     The study area is situated within the quarter-degree grid 2427 BC between elevations of
     approximately 990 and 1138 mamsl.

                ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
            9   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
PROPOSED NEW ACCESS ROADS & ADDITIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE, MARATABA SECTION OF MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK - South African Heritage Resource Agency
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)         APR 2018

     Figure 1. Location of Study Area

               ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
          10   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
               (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                      APR 2018

     4. METHODS
     4.1 Flora
     Desktop

     Broad-scale vegetation communities were identified prior to fieldwork using Google EarthTM
     satellite imagery. Red Data plant species listed for the quarter-degree grid 2427 BC in the
     Botanical Database of Southern Africa (BODATSA), which contains records from the National
     Herbarium in Pretoria, the Compton Herbarium in Cape Town and the KwaZulu-Natal
     Herbarium in Durban, were used to produce a list of the most likely species of conservation
     concern, which were searched for during fieldwork.

     Fieldwork

     Transects were walked along most of the proposed new game drive tracks during fieldwork
     (1-3 November 2017), while several tracks were driven in an open game-viewing vehicle.
     Dominant and diagnostic plant species were noted for each transect but comprehensive plant
     lists were not compiled because of the paucity of undergrowth species as a result of the very
     dry period at the time of fieldwork. Focus was placed on locating plant species of conservation
     concern along each transect.

     4.2 Fauna

     Desktop

     Lists of potentially occurring conservation-important mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs
     potentially were prepared using Swanepoel et al. (2016), the Southern African Bird Atlas
     Project 2 http://sabap2.adu.org.za/, Taylor et al. (2016), Minter et al. (2004) and Bates et al.
     (2014). The above data were captured mostly at a quarter-degree spatial resolution, but were
     refined by excluding species unlikely to occur within the study area, due to unsuitable habitat
     characteristics (e.g. altitude and land-use). Bat species thought to only forage over the study
     area (i.e. mostly cave-roosting species) were not included in the assessment due to the lack
     of suitable roosting sites within the study area. Potential occurrence of fauna in the study area
     was predicted based on knowledge of known habitat requirements of each species.

                 ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
          11     Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                 (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                     APR 2018

     Fieldwork
     Birds were identified visually using Swarovski 10x42 EL binoculars or by listening to calls of
     species hidden in dense vegetation. Observations were made incidentally during the time that
     the vegetation survey was conducted and limited to birds seen and heard within the study area
     and immediate surrounds. Mammals, reptiles and frogs were recorded incidentally as they
     were encountered during the survey through direct evidence (sightings) and indirect evidence
     (spoor, dung).

     4.3 Sensitivity and Importance Assessment

     The overall ecological sensitivity of the proposed roads was assessed against seven
     Sensitivity Drivers on a sensitivity matrix. A score between zero and five was given for each
     of the Drivers with zero indicating an absent or not applicable impact and five that of a very
     high or confirmed one (Table 1). These scores were summed and compared to the sensitivity
     values reflected in Table 2. Scores of 21 or higher indicate options with a high sensitivity,
     indicating potentially high biodiversity / development conflict. Most favourable sites are those
     with lower potential for conflict.

     Table 1. Sensitivity Driver Scores

     SENSITIVITY DRIVER SCORE
     1 = Very low / Negligible
     2 = Low
     3 = Moderate
     4 = High
     5 = Very High

     Table 2. Overall Sensitivity and Importance Scores

     OVERALL SENSITIVITY SCORE
     7-10 = Very low / Negligible
     11-15 = Low
     16-20 = Moderate
     21-25 = High
     26-35 = Very High

                 ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
          12     Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                 (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                       APR 2018

     4.4 Assumptions, Limitations and Knowledge Gaps

     4.4.1 Seasonality

     The assessment was based on a single field survey in the early part of the wet season (1-3
     November 2017). Rains had not yet arrived when fieldwork commenced and many species
     that are usually flowering at that time of the year were not yet in flower. Plants which flower at
     other times of the year were also underrepresented although this is not seen as a limitation
     that could affect the Record of Decision as the habitat is only suitable for a limited number of
     plant species of conservation concern. The likelihood of occurrence of these species is dealt
     with in this report.

     4.4.2 Overlooked Species

     Certain plant species, particularly geophytes, will only flower in seasons when conditions are
     optimal and may thus remain undetected, even over a survey that encompasses several
     seasons. Other plant species may be overlooked because of very small size and / or extreme
     rarity. A sampling strategy will always represent merely a subset of the true diversity of the
     study area. However, the level of sampling effort for this study is considered appropriate for
     the objectives of the study.

     4.4.3 Additional Infrastructure

     The additional accommodation units and massage Salas were added to the project footprint
     in 2018 and were thus not surveyed during November 2017 fieldwork. However, it was decided
     to assess these units at a desktop level for the following reasons:
         •    the impact footprint of each additional unit is very small, and the accommodation units
              are to be built on stilts;
         •    several of the new units are in habitats within the vicinity of the trails lodge that are
              already ecologically compromised;
         •    the vegetation communities within which the new units are located have been
              assessed during the 2017 fieldwork and are described in this report, allowing for
              sensitivity assessment to be undertaken for each new unit;
         •    photos of the proposed sites for each unit were sent to the specialist so that habitat
              structure and condition could be confirmed.
     This limitation should thus not impact on a record of decision being made.

                  ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
             13   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                  (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                    APR 2018

     5. BIODIVERSITY BASELINE DESCRIPTION

     5.1 Flora

     5.1.1 Regional Context

     National Vegetation Types
     According to Mucina & Rutherford (2006), the study area is situated within the Western Sandy
     Bushveld vegetation type, which is in the Central Bushveld Bioregion of the Savanna Biome.
     The higher-lying, mountainous part of Marakele National Park is situated in Waterberg
     Mountain Bushveld, which is not represented in the study area. Western Sandy Bushveld is
     located on flats and undulating plains north, west and south-west of the Waterberg Mountains
     between Steenbokpan in the north and Borakalalo National Park in the south. Vegetation
     structure varies from tall open woodland to low closed woodland, with both broad-leaved and
     microphyllous species dominant. Geology falls within the Mokolian Waterberg group and
     comprises mostly sandstone and mudstone of the Matlabas Subgroup, as well as sandstone,
     subordinate conglomerate, siltstone and shale of the Kransberg Subgroup. Soils are mostly
     plinthic catena, eutrophic, red-yellow apedal, freely drained, with high base status, mostly
     Hutton and Clovelly forms. Dominant trees include species such as Acacia erubescens, A.
     mellifera subsp. detinens, A. nilotica, A. tortilis subsp. heteracantha, Combretum apiculatum,
     C. imberbe and Terminalia sericea.

     Western Sandy Bushveld was assessed by Mucina & Rutherford (2006) as Least Threatened
     because of a low level of transformation (4%) and because 6% of the protection target of 19%
     is conserved, primarily in the Marataba Section of Marakele National Park.

     Centres of Plant Endemism
     While the study area is not situated in any floristic centres of endemism, i.e. areas that have
     an unusually high number of plants unique to that area, as described by Van Wyk & Smith
     (2001), it is situated within the proposed Waterberg Centre of Endemism (Hahn, 2002)
     although this has not yet been formally described.

     Threatened Ecosystems
     The study area is not listed as a Threatened Ecosystem (Notice 1002 of Government Gazette
     34809, 9 December 2011).

                ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
          14    Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                          APR 2018

     Limpopo Conservation Plan
     The study area is situated within a protected area as listed under the National Environmental
     Management: Protected Areas Act (No. 57 of 2003) (NEMPAA) and is categorised as a Formal
     Protected Area within the Limpopo Conservation Plan (Desmet et al., 2013). The land-use
     guidelines for such a protected area are:
         •    Maintain in a natural state with limited or no biodiversity loss.
         •    Rehabilitate degraded areas to a natural or near natural state and manage for no
              further degradation.
         •    Development subject to Protected Area objectives and zoning in a NEMPAA compliant
              and approved management plan.

     5.1.2 Local Vegetation Communities

     Four untransformed vegetation communities were identified within the proposed development
     site on the basis of distinctive vegetation structure (grassland, woodland, thicket, etc.), floristic
     composition (dominant and diagnostic species) and position in the landscape (mid-slopes,
     terrace, crest, etc.). These vegetation communities are described briefly below, and species
     lists are provided in Appendix 1.

     5.1.2.1 Mixed Acacia - Combretum Plains Woodland

     This is the dominant vegetation community within the study area and covers fifteen of the
     proposed tracks (Figures 6-8). Various tree and shrub species are dominant in different areas
     depending on soil type (Figure 2). These sub-communities are:
         •    Red sandy soils in western part of the study area – Acacia tortilis is clearly dominant,
              while other prominent tree species include Acacia erioloba, A. mellifera and Boscia
              albitrunca; four roads are covered by this sub-community, namely Woodcutter Road
              options 1 and 2, Graveyard to KD Plains and Graveyard to Gemsbok;
         •    Brown clayey sands in central and eastern parts of the study area – a mix of Acacia
              species with none clearly dominant, particularly A. erubescens, A. mellifera, A.
              erioloba, A. luederitzii and A. tortilis, as well as Combretum hereroense; Grewia flava
              and Dichrostachys cinerea are prominent understory species; this sub-community is
              prominent on Hapoor Rhino Lookout Link, Coqui to Tshukadu South Link, Seasonal
              Road to Fish Eagle Dam, Nakedi to Kgadi’s Pan, Tshukadu South Road Link, Blue
              Gwarrie to Noka Road and parts of Blue Gwarrie to Kubu Dam road;
         •    Deep, pale sands, often on old flood terraces – Terminalia sericea is dominant; this
              sub-community is most prominent on parts of the Blue Gwarrie to Kubu Dam road;

                  ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
             15   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                  (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                                               APR 2018

         •    Sodic or duplex soils – Acacia erubescens is dominant, while other diagnostic species
              include Euclea undulata and Spirostachys africana; this vegetation community is well
              represented on Caracal to Makanyane road, while patches are present on Blue
              Gwarrie to Noka Road, Coqui to Tshukadu South Link, Seasonal Road to Fish Eagle
              Dam and Nakedi to Kgadi’s Pan;
         •    Rocky or gravelly soils, usually on higher lying crests or upper slopes – Combretum
              apiculatum and C. hereroense are clearly dominant, with other common species being
              Grewia flava, Peltophorum africanum and Dichrostachys cinerea; found in patches on
              Blue Gwarrie to Kubu Dam and Blue Gwarrie to Noka Road.

       A                                                          B

      C                                                           D

     A = Woodland dominated by Acacia tortilis on reddish sands; B = Mixed Acacia w oodland on pale brow n sands; C = Acacia
     erubescens w oodland on duplex soils; Terminalia sericea w oodland on a flood terrace

     Figure 2. Photographs of different forms of Acacia - Combretum Plains Woodland

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     No species of conservation concern as defined by Raimondo et al. (2009)1 were found in this
     vegetation community during fieldwork. Five protected tree species were located, four of which
     are protected under the National Forests Act (No. 30 of 1998) (Boscia albitrunca, Acacia
     erioloba, Combretum imberbe and Sclerocarya birrea) and one of which is protected under
     the Limpopo Environmental Management Act (No. 7 of 2003) (Spirostachys africana) (Table
     4).

     While Mixed Acacia - Combretum Plains Woodland is only considered to be Moderately
     Sensitive within the context of developing new roads, the areas within this community where
     sodic or duplex soils occur are considered to be Highly Sensitive.

     5.1.2.2 Broad-leaved Woodland on Hillslopes

     This is a vegetation community that is confined to the rocky hillslopes at the base of the
     mountains in the eastern part of the study area and is relevant to Dassie Road and the
     additional infrastructure units at the trails lodge (Figure 7). Floristic composition is significantly
     different to the other vegetation communities within which the proposed roads are located.
     Prominent tree and woody shrub species that do not occur on other proposed roads include
     Searsia leptodictya, Hexalobus monopetalus, Diplorhynchus condylocarpon, Croton
     gratissimus, Euphorbia ingens, Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia and Mimusops zeyheri.
     Common tree species also include Combretum molle, C. apiculatum, C. zeyheri, Peltophorum
     africanum, Heteropyxis natalensis and Olea europaea subsp. africana. Vegetation structure
     is typically Low Closed Woodland as defined by Edwards (1983) (Figure 3).

     1
       Raimondo et al. (2009) define “species of conservation concern” as those that are classified as
     threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulmnerable), those that are classified as Near
     Threatened, and those species in the categories Declining, Rare and Critically Rare.
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         A                                                     B

     A = Typical Broad-leaved Woodland (w estern end of Dassie Road); B = Area invaded by Dichrostachys cinerea along Dassie
     Road

     Figure 3. Photographs of Broad-leaved Woodland (Dassie Road)

     No species of conservation concern as defined by Raimondo et al. (2009)1 were found in
     Broad-leaved Woodland during fieldwork. Two protected tree species were located, one of
     which is protected under the National Forests Act (No. 30 of 1998) (Boscia albitrunca) and
     one of which is protected under the Limpopo Environmental Management Act (No. 7 of 2003)
     (Spirostachys africana) (Table 4). Broad-leaved Woodland is considered to be Moderately
     Sensitive within the context of developing new roads and accommodation units.

     5.1.2.3 Riparian Woodland / Thicket

     Riparian Woodland / Thicket is a fragmented vegetation community that is confined to the
     banks and flood terraces of larger streams and rivers in the study area. Proposed roads that
     may impact this community are Island Loop to Python Lower Road, Hamerkop to Seasonal
     Road Crossing (Option 2), Blue Gwarrie to Noka Road, Link Blue Gwarrie and Marula Link,
     while the two new massage Sala units are also in this vegetation community (Figures 6-9).
     Vegetation structure varies from Tall Closed Woodland to Mid-High Thicket (Figure 4).

     1
       Raimondo et al. (2009) define “species of conservation concern” as those that are classified as
     threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulmnerable), those that are classified as Near
     Threatened, and those species in the categories Declining, Rare and Critically Rare.
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     Figure 4. Photographs of Riparian Woodland / Thicket

     No species of conservation concern as defined by Raimondo et al. (2009)1 were found in
     Riparian Woodland / Thicket during fieldwork. Only one protected tree species was located,
     namely Spirostachys africana, which is protected under the Limpopo Environmental
     Management Act (No. 7 of 2003) (Table 4). Riparian Woodland / Thicket is considered to be
     Highly Sensitive as a result of its high functional value, particularly with regards to ecological
     services such as riverbank stabilisation, flood attenuation, etc.

     5.1.2.4 Riparian Grassland / Wetland

     Riparian Grassland / Wetland occurs as a fragmented vegetation community in a mosaic with
     Riparian Woodland / Thicket along the banks and flood terraces of larger streams and rivers
     in the study area. Proposed roads that may impact this community are Island Loop to Python
     Lower Road, Seasonal Road to Fish Eagle Dam, both Hamerkop to Seasonal Road Crossing
     options, Proposed Bridge at existing Tusk Road Crossing, Blue Gwarrie to Noka Road, Link
     Blue Gwarrie, Marula Link, Blue Gwarrie to Kubu Dam and Kubu Dam Link (Figures 6-8).
     Vegetation structure varies from Low Closed to Open Grassland / Shrubland (Figure 5).

     1
       Raimondo et al. (2009) define “species of conservation concern” as those that are classified as
     threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulmnerable), those that are classified as Near
     Threatened, and those species in the categories Declining, Rare and Critically Rare.
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     Figure 5. Photographs of Riparian Grassland / Wetland

     No species of conservation concern as defined by Raimondo et al. (2009)1 and no protected
     species were found in Riparian Grassland / Wetland during fieldwork. This vegetation
     community is considered to be Highly Sensitive as a result of its high functional value,
     particularly with regards to ecological services such as riverbank stabilisation, flood
     attenuation, etc.

     1
       Raimondo et al. (2009) define “species of conservation concern” as those that are classified as
     threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulmnerable), those that are classified as Near
     Threatened, and those species in the categories Declining, Rare and Critically Rare.
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     5.1.3 Conservation-Important Flora

     Eighty-eight plant species were recorded within the vicinity of the proposed roads during
     fieldwork (Appendix 1) of which five are protected by national and / or provincial legislation
     (Table 3). Four species are protected under the National Forests Act (No. 30 of 1998), namely
     Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra (low numbers present), Boscia albitrunca (moderate numbers
     present), Acacia erioloba (moderate numbers present) and Combretum imberbe (moderate
     numbers present). One species, Spirostachys africana, which is relatively common in the
     study area, is protected the Limpopo Environmental Management Act (No. 7 of 2003).
     Significant Spirostachys groves are present in the vicinity of Blue Gwarrie to Kubu Dam, Blue
     Gwarrie to Noka Road, Tshukadu South Road Link, Graveyard to KD Plains, Woodcutter Road
     A and Island Loop to Python Lower Road.

     An additional 13 plant species of conservation concern have been recorded from the general
     vicinity of the study area (Appendix 2), none of which are likely to occur because of unsuitable
     habitat and / altitude.

     Table 3. Protected plant species confirmed during fieldwork

                                                                                                                   Broad-leaved Woodland on
                                                                                        Mixed Acacia - Combretum

                                                                                                                                              Riparian Woodland /
                                                                                            Plains Woodland
                                                                     Protected Status

                                                                                                                           Hillslopes

                                                           Growth                                                                                   Thicket
                             Taxon
                                                           Form

      Family Anacardiaceae
      Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst. subsp. caffra
                                                           Tree     NFA                         x
      (Sond.) Kokwaro
      Family Capparaceae
      Boscia albitrunca (Burch.) Gilg & Gilg-Ben.          Tree     NFA                         x                      x
      Family Combretaceae
      Combretum imberbe Wawra                              Tree     NFA                         x
      Family Euphorbiaceae
      Spirostachys africana Sond.                          Tree     LEMA                        x                      x                         x
      Family Fabaceae
      Acacia erioloba E.Mey.                               Tree     NFA                         x

      NFA = National Forests Act
      LEMA = Limpopo Environmental Management Act

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     Figure 6. Vegetation communities within 200m buffer along proposed roads (1)

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     Figure 7. Vegetation communities within 200m buffer along proposed roads (2)

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     Figure 8. Vegetation communities within 200m buffer along proposed roads (3)

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     Figure 9. Vegetation communities in the vicinity of the additional infrastructure units

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     5.2 Terrestrial Fauna

     5.2.1 Mammals

     The Marakele National Park, including the Marataba section, has high mammal diversity, with
     91 species included in the official park checklist 1. However, this list includes numerous species
     that are more likely to occur in grassland or rocky outcrop habitat at higher altitudes than the
     Marataba section of the park, in which the proposed roads are located. Twenty of the species
     known to occur in the Marataba section of the park are classified as either threatened
     (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable), Near Threatened, or are listed ToPS
     species protected under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of
     2004) (Appendix 5). Several of these species were recorded during fieldwork, such as
     Aardvark Orycteropus afer (Protected), Spotted Hyaena Crocuta crocuta (NT), Leopard
     Panthera pardus (VU) and Southern White Rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum simum (VU), but
     all of the other species potentially occur in the vicinity of the proposed roads as well.

     5.2.2 Birds

     Of the nine biomes in Southern Africa, the savannah biome supports the highest diversity of
     bird species within the sub-region. Marakele National Park has an official bird list of 315
     species 2, although the quarter-degree grid in which the park is situated (2427 BC) has had
     322 species recorded to date by the second Southern African Bird Atlas Projects (SABAP2) 3.
     At a finer scale, data from SABAP2 indicate that 280 bird species have already been recorded
     from the pentads (mapping units) in which the Marataba section of the park is situated
     (2415_2730; 2415_2735; 2420_2730; 2420_2735)4. A pentad covers an area of
     approximately 77 km2, which is considerably smaller than a quarter-degree grid
     (approximately 694 km2) and thus a better indication of which species occur in the study area.

     One hundred and thirty-four species were confirmed to occur in the study area during two
     days’ fieldwork (Appendix 3), a reasonable total considering the dry conditions prevailing at
     the time. The species accumulation curve displayed in Figure 10 indicates that further
     sampling would have been needed to get an accurate estimate of species richness. However,

     1
         https://www.sanparks.org/docs/parks_marakele/mammal-list.pdf
     2
         https://www.sanparks.org/docs/parks_marakele/bird-list.pdf
     3
      http://sabap1.adu.org.za/sabap_site_summary.php?autoSite=SABAP&QDGC=2427BCaccessed
     15/11/2017
     4
         Data accessed from http://sabap2.adu.org.za/ on 15/11/2017
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     the data collected were sufficient in order to give broad descriptions of relevant bird
     assemblages. Not all habitats within Marataba section were covered during fieldwork and this
     should not be viewed as a description of assemblages within the entire section.

     Figure 10. Species accumulation curve for November 2017 fieldwork

     Two broad assemblages were evident during fieldwork and are described below. A third
     assemblage is present, namely the Thicket Assemblage, but this was only briefly surveyed
     and the only species confined to this assemblage during fieldwork was Yellow-bellied
     Greenbul (Chlorocichla flaviventris).

       I.    Woodland Assemblage
     This is the dominant bird assemblage over most of the Marataba section of the park and is
     associated with the various woodland / savannah habitats present. Table 4 indicates the most
     frequently encountered species in this assemblage during fieldwork, although insufficient time
     was spent in the field to determine true species dominance. A number of species in this
     assemblage are indicators of arid, Acacia-dominated savannahs, such as Crimson-breasted
     Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus), Ashy Tit (Melaniparus cinerascens), Southern Pied Babbler
     (Turdoides bicolor) and Violet-eared Waxbill (Granatina granatina). One hundred and nine
     species, or 81% of the fieldwork species list, were recorded in this assemblage (Appendix 3),
     although the true species richness is likely to be significantly higher.

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     Table 4. Most frequently encountered species in the Woodland Assemblage

                                                             Rep
         Species                             Frequency
                                                            Rate
         Rattling Cisticola                      13         0.033
         Long-billed Crombec                     10         0.026
         White-browed Scrub Robin                10         0.026
         Cape Turtle Dove                         9         0.023
         Blue Waxbill                             8         0.021
         Grey Go-away-bird                        8         0.021
         Tawny-flanked Prinia                     8         0.021
         Black-backed Puffback                    7         0.018
         Grey-backed Camaroptera                  7         0.018
         Southern Red-billed Hornbill             7         0.018

         II.    Open Water / River Assemblage
     This assemblage is confined to the Matlabas River and its various impoundments, such as
     Fish Eagle Dam, Kingfisher Dam, etc. Thirty-two species, or 24% of the fieldwork list, were
     recorded in this assemblage (Appendix 3) although very little time was spent surveying this
     habitat. True species richness is likely to be significantly higher. Species composition includes
     a number of distinctive feeding guilds such as open water feeders, e.g. White-faced Whistling
     Duck (Dendrocygna viduata), Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos) and White-breasted
     Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus), shoreline feeders such as Three-banded Plover
     (Charadrius tricollaris), Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) and Common Greenshank (Tringa
     nebularia), emergent / fringing vegetation feeders such as African Jacana (Actophilornis
     africanus), and aerial insectivores such as Lesser Striped Swallow (Hirundo abyssinica),
     White-fronted Bee-eater (Merops bullockoides) and White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer).

     Marakele National Park falls within the Waterberg System Important Bird Area (IBA) and
     qualifies as a Global IBA under criteria A1, A3 and A4ii. IBA trigger species include globally
     threatened species such as Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres (818 active nests in 2013),
     Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius, Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus, Blue Crane
     Anthropoides paradiseus and Denham's Bustard Neotis denhami, and regionally threatened
     birds such as Verreauxs' Eagle Aquila verreauxii, White-bellied Korhaan Eupodotis
     senegalensis, Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus, African Grass Owl Tyto capensis and Tawny
     Eagle Aquila rapax1.

     1
         http://www.birdlife.org.za/get-involved/join-birdlife-south-africa/item/148-sa007-waterberg-system
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     Sixteen of the species known to occur in the Marataba section of the park are classified as
     either threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable), Near Threatened, or are
     listed ToPS species protected under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity
     Act (No. 10 of 2004) (Appendix 5). Three of these species, each of which is classified as
     Vulnerable, were recorded during fieldwork, namely Black Stork, Martial Eagle and Lanner
     Falcon. All of the remaining 13 species potentially occur in the vicinity of the proposed roads
     as well, although most likely as irregular foraging visitors rather than residents. No evidence
     of raptor nests was located along the transects walked.

     5.2.3 Reptiles & Frogs

     Forty-one reptile species have been recorded from the quarter-degree grid 2427 BC and
     immediately adjacent grids 1, none of which are threatened (Critically Endangered,
     Endangered or Vulnerable) or Near Threatened. One potentially occurring species of
     conservation concern is Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), which is classified as Vulnerable
     and is listed as Vulnerable in the Threatened and Protected Species Lists in NEMBA. While it
     is uncertain whether this species has been confirmed to occur in the Marataba section of the
     park, there have been unconfirmed reports of sightings (Dr. A. Uys pers.comm.). Southern
     African Python (Python natalensis), which is listed as Protected under NEMBA, does occur in
     the Marataba section and potentially occurs at a number of the proposed roads, particularly in
     the vicinity of river crossings. No reptiles were observed during the limited fieldwork period
     and a dedicated reptile survey using pitfall traps and drift fences, as well as additional
     nocturnal surveys, would be needed to adequately sample this faunal group.

     Eighteen species of frogs have been recorded from the quarter-degree grid 2427 BC and
     immediately adjacent grids 2, none of which are threatened (Critically Endangered,
     Endangered or Vulnerable) or Near Threatened, and most of which are relatively widespread
     habitat generalists. No frog species were recorded during fieldwork although no nocturnal
     surveys were undertaken. Dedicated frog surveys during the wet season would result in a
     small list of frogs within the vicinity of the proposed roads, but none of these are likely to be
     species of conservation concern.

     1
         http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_sp_list.php
     2
         http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_sp_list.php
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     6. SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT
     The ecological sensitivity of the proposed new roads was assessed on a sensitivity matrix as
     indicated in Table 5 below. The score for each site is indicative of the potential biodiversity /
     infrastructure development conflict, with higher scores indicating potentially higher conflict.
     Most favourable sites are those with lower potential for conflict.

     Table 5. Sensitivity Assessment of Proposed Roads

                                                                                                   SENSITIVITY DRIVERS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   SENSITIVITY SCORE
                                                                                                                           Potential for Negative
                                                                            Potential to Support

                                                                                                    Potential to Support

                                                                                                                            Associated Impacts

                                                                                                                                                                                              Presence of Unique
                                                                                                    Red-Listed Species
                                                       Current Ecological

                                                                                                                                                    Irreplaceability of

                                                                                                                                                                          Impact Footprint
                                                                                                                                                                           Relative Size of
                                                                                                                                                      Natural Habitat

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Habitat / Taxa
                                                                                Biodiversity
      PROPOSED ROADS AND CROSSINGS

                                                             State

      Proposed Bridge at Existing Tusk Road Crossing       3                     3                       3                      3                       2                     1                  2                 17
      Graveyard to Gemsbok                                 3                     4                       4                      2                       2                     2                  2                 19
      Nakedi to Kgadi's Pan                                3                     4                       4                      2                       2                     3                  2                 20
      Woodcutters Road Two                                 3                     3                       4                      2                       2                     2                  2                 18
      Woodcutters Road One                                 3                     3                       4                      2                       2                     3                  2                 19
      Tshukadu South Road Link                             3                     3                       4                      2                       2                     2                  2                 18
      Coqui Maze Tshukadu South Link                       3                     4                       4                      2                       2                     2                  2                 19
      Caracal to Makanyane                                 3                     3                       3                      5                       4                     2                  2                 22
      Graveyard to KD Plains                               3                     4                       4                      2                       2                     2                  2                 19
      Hapoor Rhino Lookout Link                            3                     4                       4                      2                       2                     2                  2                 19
      Seasonal Road to Fish Eagle Dam Wall                 3                     4                       4                      3                       2                     2                  2                 20
      Island Loop to Python Lower Road                     3                     4                       4                      3                       2                     2                  2                 20
      Blue Gwarrie to Noka                                 3                     4                       4                      3                       2                     3                  2                 21
      Link Blue Gwarrie                                    3                     4                       4                      3                       2                     2                  2                 20
      Marula Link                                          3                     4                       4                      3                       2                     2                  2                 20
      Dassie Road                                          3                     4                       4                      3                       2                     2                  2                 20
      Blue Gwarrie to Kubu Dam                             3                     4                       4                      2                       2                     3                  2                 20
      Kubu Dam Link                                        3                     4                       4                      3                       2                     2                  2                 20
      Hamerkop to Seasonal Road Crossing                   3                     3                       3                      3                       2                     1                  2                 17
      Hamerkop to Seasonal Road Crossing                   3                     3                       3                      3                       2                     1                  2                 17
      Trails Lodge SALA and pathway                        3                     3                       3                      2                       3                     1                  2                 17
      Trails Lodge Staff Units                             2                     2                       2                      2                       2                     1                  2                 13
      Trails Lodge Accommodation Unit                      3                     3                       3                      2                       2                     2                  2                 17
      Safari Lodge SALA                                    2                     2                       2                      2                       3                     1                  2                 14

                                                                            OVERALL SENSITIVITY
      SENSITIVITY DRIVER SCORE
                                                                            SCORE
      1 = Very low / Negligible                                             7-10 = Very low / Negligible
      2 = Low                                                               11-15 = Low
      3 = Moderate                                                          16-20 = Moderate
      4 = High                                                              21-25 = High
      5 = Very High                                                         26-35 = Very High

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     7. KEY POTENTIAL IMPACTS

     This section gives a brief overview of expected impacts of the proposed roads and additional
     infrastructure units on terrestrial ecosystems. Impacts are not arranged in any order of overall
     significance, and this is not a detailed impact assessment as this was not part of the terms of
     reference for this report. The following are potentially significant impacts on untransformed
     vegetation communities:

        •    Loss or damage of plant species of conservation importance – five protected
             species could be impacted during the construction phase. Four of these are protected
             under the NFA (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra, Combretum imberbe, Acacia erioloba
             and Boscia albitrunca), while Spirostachys africana is protected under provincial
             legislation;
        •    Degradation of vegetation on sodic / duplex soils – one of the proposed roads
             (Caracal to Makanyane) crosses a significant area of sodic / duplex soils; any road
             construction over these soils is likely to result in long-term / permanent damage to that
             environment and is not recommended;
        •    Degradation of watercourses – the proposed river crossings, particularly along the
             Matlabas River, are potentially sensitive to degradation through construction, road
             building and dumping of building rubble and topsoil. Long-term changes in surface and
             subsurface runoff could negatively affect the structure and function of this system,
             particularly with respect to channel erosion caused by increased stormwater runoff;
        •    Invasion of natural habitat by alien plants – although few alien plant species were
             located during fieldwork, construction activities could introduce seeds of pioneer alien
             plants which may thrive in bare soil exposed during construction.

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     8. CONCLUSION & RECOMMENDATIONS

     The terrestrial ecology of the proposed road sites was sampled over a three-day period in
     November 2017. While few species of conservation were noted during fieldwork, numerous
     threatened mammals and birds are known to occur, either as breeding residents or non-
     breeding visitors. Two sensitive vegetation communities were encountered, namely Riparian
     Woodland / Thicket and Riparian Grassland / Wetland, while areas of sodic / duplex soils
     within the Mixed Acacia – Combretum Plains Woodland community are also considered to be
     sensitive. A sensitivity assessment matrix is presented in section 6, on which the following
     recommendations can be made with regards to the location and construction of the proposed
     roads:

        •     The proposed Caracal to Mankanyane road crosses a significant portion of sodic /
              duplex soils and would result in irreparable damage to the soils and associated
              vegetation; construction of this road is not recommended.
        •     Part of the proposed Blue Gwarrie to Noka road is aligned in close proximity to steep
              eroded banks of the stream it follows, and as a result has scored high in the sensitivity
              assessment; the road will need to be carefully re-aligned in this section to avoid further
              erosion of these banks.
        •     The location of roads should be above the 1/100-year floodline of the Matlabas River
              wherever possible; it is understood that several seasonal roads are needed below this
              floodline, but this should be limited to three options or less.
        •     Road construction should not impact any large indigenous trees, especially protected
              species such as Acacia erioloba, Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra, Combretum
              imberbe, Boscia albitrunca and Spirostachys africana.
        •     All proposed roads to contain adequate stormwater drainage and erosion control
              measures.
        •     It is assumed that no external labour teams will be used for road construction. If this is
              the case, then poaching should not be a significant threat.
        •     Areas of bare soil exposed during road construction should be regularly monitored
              during the construction phase to ensure that no invasive plants get established.

     Provided the recommendations suggested in this report are followed, there is no objection to
     the proposed development of roads and additional infrastructure on Marataba in terms of the
     terrestrial ecosystems of the study area.

                 ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
            32   Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                 (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
MARATABA ECOLOGY STUDY & SENSITIVITY ASSESSMENT (ECOREX)                                           APR 2018

     9. REFERENCES
     Animal     Demography        Unit.   n.d.   The    Southern     African    Bird    Atlas      Project
              http://sabap2.adu.org.za/index.php accessed on 08/05/2017.
     Bates, M.F., Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M., Burger, M., Marais, J., Alexander, G.J. & de Villiers,
              M.S. (eds). 2014. Atlas and Red Data List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and
              Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
     DEA. 2014. National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 2004 (Act 10 of 2004) Alien
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     DEAT. 2011. National List of Threatened Terrestrial Ecosystems in South Africa. National
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     Desmet, P. G., Holness, S., Skowno, A. & Egan, V.T. 2013. Limpopo Conservation Plan v.2:
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     Edwards, D. 1983. A broad-scale structural classification of vegetation for practical purposes.
              Bothalia 14:705-712.
     Hahn, N. 2002. Endemic flora of the Soutpansberg. MSc Thesis. University of KwaZulu-Natal,
              Pietermaritzburg.
     Minter, L.R., Burger, M., Harrison, J.A., Braack, H.H., Bishop, P.J. & Kloepfer, D.2004. Atlas
              and Red Data Book of the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. SI/MAB
              Series No.9. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
     Mucina, L. and Rutherford, M.C. (eds) 2006. The Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and
              Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
     Raimondo, D., Von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi,
              D.A. & Manyama, P.A. (eds) 2009. Red List of South African Plants 2009. Strelitzia 25.
              South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
     Swanepoel, L.H., Balme, G., Williams, S., Power, R.J., Snyman, A., Gaigher, I., Senekal, C.,
              Martins, Q., Child, M.F. 2016. A conservation assessment of Panthera pardus. In Child
              MF, Roxburgh L, Do Linh San E, Raimondo D, Davies-Mostert HT, editors. The Red
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     Taylor, M.R., Peacock, F., Wanless, R.W. (eds). 2015. The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of
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     Van Wyk, A. E. & Smith, G. F. 2001. Regions of floristic endemism in southern Africa: A review
              with emphasis on succulents. Umdaus Press, Pretoria.

                 ECOREX Consulting Ecologists CC
          33     Postnet Suite #192, Private Bag X2 Raslouw 0109
                 (083) 231-5632 warren@ecorex.co.za
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