OF CONSERVATION OF THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
|The importance of development has always
preceded that of the environment.
This mentality has been slow to change but with the creation of various laws and policies
that protect the environment, people will have to become more sensitive and aware of the
environmental situation in Greater Johannesburg. The agricultural and conservation
potential of the area is still untapped.
of conservation: Ridges run from east to west through the central parts of the
metropolitan area. The single biggest rock formation of the area is the Witwatersrand
ridge, which stretches from Orange Grove in the east to Roodepoort in the west. This
ridge supports interesting indigenous flora such as the Redleaved Rock Fig Ficus
ingens and Cape Gardenia Rothmannia capensis (Butchart, 1995). Smaller
ridges are found to the south of Johannesburg and south of Lenasia. Exposed cliffs of the
Northcliff Hill and Witpoortjie Falls, are home to Rock Dassies, and the latter to a pair
of Black Eagles. Mostly out of reach of veld fires and man's activities, these cliffs
support some ancient trees, such as Wild Olive Olea europea and Jacket Plum Pappea
capensis, which may have been alive since 1886. Natural features,
as well as protected and proclaimed conservation areas, can also be found alongside these
ridges. Protected and proclaimed areas are seen around Roodepoort stretching eastwards to
the northern areas of Johannesburg. Protected areas are also found in the far northern
areas of the metropolitan area, as well as to the north, east and south of Randburg,
Sandton and Alexandra. Other protected areas and natural features stretch from east to
west along ridges and rivers to the south of Johannesburg. Some protected areas occur in
Soweto; around the Klip River north of Lenasia, and natural features are found to the
south of Lenasia and north of Ennerdale. Exposed rocks in the Klipriviersberg are home to
many mammals, birds, reptiles, and rock-adapted plants such as Mountain Aloe Aloe
marlothii and Transvaal Milkplum Englerophytum magalismontanum
(Butchart, 1995). Pans and dams are mainly situated in the Klip (south) and Jukskei
(north) River Systems. Wetlands in and around Soweto, including the large Olifantsvlei
wetland to the southeast, are very important as conservation areas, but are being filled
up or threatened by illegal dumping. A protected area is also located around Orange Farm.
Conservation areas are only found on the outskirts and alongside ridges and rivers in the
- Environmental conservation areas
in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg are located mainly alongside river systems, with
very few if any around the CBD. There is a large conservation area to the west of
Dobsonville, and a few around the Klip River system through Soweto. Large conservation
areas are found around Kibler Park, with a very important area around the Klip River in
the south. Other conservation areas are seen north of Lenasia, north and south of
Ennerdale, and east of Weilers Farm. These areas are all "no go" areas for
- The major business nodes are
concentrated in the northern half of the metropolitan area to just south of the
Johannesburg CBD. Environmental corridors in the north are all found alongside the Jukskei
River system, except for the large conservation area in the far north. A very large and
important corrridor can be seen along the Klip River in the south stretching from east to
west to the south of Kibler Park. Some environmental corridors are also found south of
Ennerdale and south of Lenasia.
- Natural Grasslands, which once covered much of the Greater Johannesburg area, are now
very scarce (Butchart, 1995). Those that still exist are mainly covered by indigenous
Rooigras Themeda triandra . Most grasslands have however been disturbed by man's
activities, and aliens like Khakiweed Tagetes minuta and Blackjack Bidens
pilosa have taken over. Roadsides in Johannesburg are favourable for colonisation
by Cosmos Bidens formosa, which flowers in autumn. Areas of savanna are
found in various localities, but mainly in the Klipriviersberg, Melville Koppies and along
the western end of the Witwatersrand ridge. Two distinct forms are present: acacia
savanna, dominated by Common Hookthorn Acacia caffra and usually growing
on north-facing slopes; and protea savanna, dominated by
Common Sugerbush Protea caffra and typical of south-facing slopes
(Butchart, 1995). Various grasses, including Guinea Grass Panicum maximum, grow
beneath these trees. In other areas where the savanna have been disturbed, invasive aliens
like Black Wattle Acacia mearnsii and Prickly Pear Opuntia ficus-indica
flourish. Only where stream banks have been left undisturbed, do fragments of the
species-rich riverine forest habitat of Johannesburg remain. The best example is found
along the Witpoortjie River in the Witwatersrand Botanical Gardens, where large Stinkwood Celtis
africana and River Bushwillow Combretum erythrophyllum are the dominant
- Efforts are being made to conserve water through media education by the Water Board, and
the installation of safer and more effective water management strategies. These strategies
have achieved positive results in some areas, but the lack of water provision in all
communities still poses a problem.
- The existing trees and shrubs of the Greater Johannesburg Metro Region follows (Kruger,
|Acacia xanthophloea (P)
||Forest false nettle
||Common poison bush
|Bolosonthus speciosus (P)
||Mountain silver oak
||Transvaal kooboo berry
||White cat's whiskers
|Combretum kraussii (P)
||Mountain cabbage tree
|Dias cotonifolia (P)
|Diospyros austro-africana (P)
|Dodonaea viscosa (P)
||Common wild pear
||Oval kei apple
|Erythrina lysistemon (P)
||Common coral tree
||Red leaved rock fig
|Fraidherbia albida (P)
|Harpephyllum caffrum (P)
||Common spike thorn
||Kraal spike thorn
|Olea europaea subsp. africana
||Common resin tree
||Common bride's bush
|Podocarpus spp. (P)
|Rhus pendulina (P)
||Common wild currant
||Spine-leaved monkey orange
||Queen of the night
||Brazilian glory pea
|(P) = Planted trees, not found locally
- The situation in the EMSS (EMLC, 1997) is as follows:
- Vegetation: residential population densities vary from high in Hillbrow and
Alexandra, to medium in Inner City suburbs, and low in Houghton, Hyde Park and Sandhurst.
The majority of trees are found in the low-density areas, while the high-density areas are
almost devoid of trees. Prior to urban settlement, the area was a fire sub-climax area.
Mostly indigenous trees and woodland growth could be found, but due to fires, the growth
of seedling trees is inhibited, and grasslands now dominate the area. Some indigenous tree
species still survive along streams, like the River Bushwillow, and on ridges and koppies,
like proteas and acacias, where fires die out due to a lack of fuel. Vegetation differs
according to rainfall and geology. Granites in the Lonehill and Norscot areas, are rich in
nutrients, and a variety of vegetation can be found there. In contrast, the leached soils
from shale rocks, support limited vegetation, while the well drained, shallow soils of the
quartz Rietfontein Ridge supports a fire-resistant protea community. At least 50 species
of trees and shrubs occur naturally in the EMLC, and at least one, the Honey-scented
Protea is in danger of complete elimination. Alien vegetation includes the Black Wattle (Acacia
mearnsii), Grey Poplar, Sesbania trees, and Kikuyu grass.
- Birds: original highveld birds have adapted well in the urban environment. The
Olive Thrush and Puffbacks originating in woodland have now invaded suburban gardens.
Fruit eating birds like Grey Louries, Barbets, Mousebirds and Bulbuls have thrived in the
urban environment. Larger birds such as the Spotted Dikkop and Crowned Plover, as well as
grassland species such as Larks and Pipits have however declined. Raptors and fish-eating
species have also declined.
- Mammals: Only a few of the past free-roaming herds of game still exist. Dassies
are still found in the Lonehill Tor, while housing and predation by domestic animals have
depleted most natural habitats and species. Some bats, hares and meercats can still be
found, while antelope have been reintroduced into conservation areas such as Rietfontein.
- Reptiles: Some lizards, snakes and tortoises can still be found on koppies,
ridges and in gardens.
- Frogs: Water scarcity and weather uncertainties have caused breeding adaptations
in frogs. The Guttural Toad and Common River Frog can be found in garden ponds, while
bullfrogs and sand frogs only start breeding once the summer rains fall.
- Fish: Very few fish species are left, due to water pollution and the construction
of concrete sewers and canals. Fish types include eels, yellowish, minnows, mudsuckers,
catlets and barbels.
- Insects, butterflies, moths and arachnids: Insects are the most widespread and
abundant of all animal groups on earth, and a large variety such as flies, mosquitoes,
grasshoppers and locusts are found in the EMSS. Of the 29 insect families in the EMSS, 8
are butterflies and the remainder moths. Spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites are common in
- The status of the natural environment in the SMSS is as follows:
- A significant loss of agricultural land and natural systems has taken
place due to urban expansion.
- The Klip River Wetlands and Klipriviersberg are under severe pressure
from urban encroachment and poor management. The Klip River and its wetland has very high
conservation potential for ecological maintenance and recreational importance.
-Most of the regions natural species has been replaced by exotic
species (SMLC: LDO, 1997).
Conservation and recreational land use in the WMLC make up 2,8% of the area. The
northern areas are environmentally more protected and maintained than the southern areas
-the natural conditions of the area;
-the wealthier communities; and
-the previous allocation of resources.
These areas offer excellent opportunities for open space and integrated
environmental planning, including the Witwatersrand Botanical Gardens, the Kloofendal
Reserve, and the Florida Lake / Fleurhof Dam area (WMLC, 1997).
- The NMLC consists predominantly of a series of rolling plains with low relief. Several
small hills and dykes punctuate the generally flat topography. Features of the natural
Geology: A basement complex of granites and gneisses, mafic to
ultra-mafic rocks and intrusive dykes.
Natural vegetation: Bankenveld (A61) in Acocks (1988) or now in
the new classification the Rocky Highveld Grassland (Low & Rebelo, 1996). Rocky hills
carry bushveld dominated by Acacia caffra (common hook thorn), Celtis
africana (white stinkwood), Protea caffra (sugar bush) and Olea europaea.
Exotic species: Their spread has been very successful, leaving only
a few islands of indigenous species.
Birds: The hills, dykes, Protea veld and grassland patches
support the naturally occurring bird species. Birds also flock to the artificial wetlands,
dams, plantations and gardens.
Reptiles: A variety still remains in the area, such as the
bullfrog. They breed in shallow rain-filled ponds as found, for example, in the Lanseria
Mammals: Destruction of their habitat through development has
substantially reduced their diversity.
- In the 1970s the northern areas of the NMLC, towards Lanseria, were identified as
potential Green Belt areas. The Green Belts were planned to provide open areas for city
dwellers, barriers for the formation of conurbations, and green lungs to limit air
pollution. Development to the north of the NMLC will impact on the possible formation of a
Green Belt in the northern parts of the urban fringe (NMLC: LDO, 1997).
- Areas available for conservation, recreation and tourism in the NMLC range from the
southern boundary at Pimville to the north (Lanseria/Diepkloof): the golf course south of
Pimville, the Orlando Dam and Pimville Dam, Noordgesig Hill, Eskom Powerline Servitude,
Noordgesig Stream and Wetlands, Hill south of Powa Park, Green Belt east of Powa Park,
Vlei area in Pimville, Freedom Square, Orlando community hall, the swamps in Bosmont,
Consolidated Main Reef Gold Mine, West Park cemetery, Jan van Riebeeck Park, Melville
Koppies Nature Reserve, Alberts Farm, rivers and streams, Northcliff Ridge, Emmarentia
Park, Westdene Park, Braamfontein Spruit, Randpark Ridge, Jacaranda Park, Lion Park, Kya
Sands sport fields, Honeydew club, community centers in Blairgowrie, Ferndale,
Fontainbleau, Boskruin, Ferndale Reserve, Darrenwood dam and koppie, Windsor Golf club,
Boschkop Nature Reserve, Kelland Bird Sanctuary, Golden Harvest Koppie, Diepsloot Nature
Reserve, Hy-Many House, Olivedale Windmill, Zandspruit, North Riding Dyke, Delta Park,
Waterfowl Bird Sanctuary, Jukskei Park, Northgate Koppie, Boskruin Koppie, Witkoppen Farm
House, Norscot House, Pampoenspruit, President Ridge, Klipspruit and the Dainfern Golf
- The topography of the WMSS is characterised by ridges that
represent one of the greatest natural environmental resources in the area. These ridges
have great aesthetic, scenic, environmental and spiritual meaning and value. It also has
the potential to be developed as open space corridors that provide a variety of amenities
such as attractive views, open space preservation, passive recreation and conventially
located recreational opportunities (WMLC, 1997).
Acocks, J.P.H. 1988: Veld Types of South Africa.
Botanical Research Institute: Pretoria.
Butchart, D. 1995: Wild about Johannesburg: All-in-one
guide to common Animals and Plants of Gardens, Parks and Nature Reserves.Southern:
Kruger, J. 2000: Indigenous and Exotic Trees and Shrubs
of Greater Johannesburg. EMSS - Urban Environmental Management - Personal
Low, A.B. & A. Rebelo 1996: Vegetation of South
Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. DEAT: Pretoria.
SMLC, EMLC, NMLC, WMLC 1997: Land Development Objective.
WMLC 1997: Draft Development Policy for the main ridges
within the WMLC area. WMLC: Roodepoort.