Tankwa Karoo National Park is situated within the Succulent Karoo Biome. The Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot covers some 116,000km2 of desert stretching along the Atlantic coast of Africa, from south-western South Africa into southern Namibia. It is one of the 25 richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth and the only arid region recognised as a biodiversity hotspot. Biodiversity hotspots cover only 1.4% of the planet, yet contain 60% of all terrestrial species diversity.
The Succulent Karoo boasts the world's richest succulent flora, as well as high reptile and invertebrate diversity. Compared to other hotspots, the vegetation remains relatively intact. However, only 30,000km2 of the original vegetation remains in a relatively pristine state with only 3.5% formally conserved. Dwarf Shrubland dominated by leaf succulents is found throughout the hotspot, a unique vegetation among Earth's deserts. Nearly one-third of the floral species of the region are unique to the hotspot.
Succulent Karoo is vulnerable to several land use pressures, particularly overgrazing on communal lands, ostrich farming in the southeast, mining and the illegal collection of plants and animals for trade. Climate change is also expected to have a serious impact on the region's biodiversity.
Tankwa Karoo National Park
The park falls into the Succulent Karoo Biome and comprises the lowland (Tanqua Karoo) and upland (Western Mountain Karoo) Succulent Karoo vegetation types. Vegetation types conserved by the park are:
- Central Tanqua Grassy Plain,
- Roggeveld Shale Renosterveld,
- Tanqua Escarpment,
- Succulent Karoo,
- Roggeveld Karoo,
- Tanqua Wash Rivers, and
- Nieuwoudtville Roggeveld Dolerite Renosterveld.
The remarkable endemism and diversity of the Succulent Karoo flora, generally at its most spectacular from August to October, is one of the more prominent aspects of the park. The Lowland Succulent Karoo is described as very sparse shrub land and dwarf shrub land (< 0.3m). The Upland Succulent Karoo, which includes the Roggeveld and Elandsberg Mountains, is described as generally consisting of small to medium sized shrubs and succulents.
At present, the plant species list for the park stands at 780 plant species with four new species to science found between by 2014. Invasive alien plant infestations are relatively limited to riverine areas and are managed via removal and monitoring.
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