Over 55 percent of the Little Karoo is moderately degraded and only 18 percent in a pristine condition. Lower soil nutrients and loss of palatable plant species are results of this degradation and the challenge is developing the correct balance between improving soil and plant quality, herbivore densities and predator populations in order to facilitate the rehabilitation of the ecosystem.
The Fynbos Biome and the Succulent Karoo are globally recognised biodiversity hotspots and conserving them is critical.
The Warmwaterberg Mountains which bisects the reserve creates a rain shadow on Sanbona. To the south of the mountains, nutrient-rich soils receive on average 350mm of rainfall annually, supporting Montagu Shale Renosterveld vegetation of the Fynbos Biome. North of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, where the average annual rainfall drops dramatically to only 150mm, the vegetation shifts to the more arid Succulent Karoo, which consists of the Western Little Karoo type as well as Little Karoo Quartz Vygieveld.
Two and a half centuries of agricultural impact in the Klein Karoo have left their mark. This influences conservation management objectives to this day, and will do for many years to come. Fences, road networks, overgrazing, trampling and ploughing have all left scars on the landscape, leading to erosion, alien invasive vegetation, change in vegetation structure and the destruction of micro-habitats. Conservation management must attempt to facilitate the natural rehabilitation of the vegetation by reversing these factors so that the vegetation structure is able to return to a more natural state. In a semi-arid environment such as Sanbona’s, this is a slow process. However, the groundwork has been laid and constant monitoring of management actions and adaptation of conservation practices allows for Sanbona’s revival in a sustainable manner.
Mesembryanthemum tortuosum (kanna or kougoed) commonly occurs in quartz patches, although the plants are grown commercially on a large scale, there is tremendous conservation pressure on wild harvesting of the species. The Khoisan called it kanna, and they picked it, buried it to ferment it, then dried it. Once dried, it was eaten, used as snuff or smoked to produce a potent effect as a mood enhancer or sedative. Sometimes kanna was used as currency.
Crassula is a genus of succulent plants. There are about 200 species worldwide, with most of them occurring in South Africa, 60 of them in the Klein Karoo. This particular Crassula deltoidea (kata-kiso) is perhaps one of the most drought-adapted member.
The plants here are all miniature and well camouflaged on the rocky ground where they grow. Ornithoglossum undulatum (snake lily or slangkop) belongs to a small genus of eight Southern African and tropical African species that form part of the Colchicaceae family. Three species occur in the Klein Karoo. Snake lily usually grows on rocky granite and sandstone slopes. The leaves and flowers are poisonous and are known to cause stock losses.