Cape West Coast biosphere reserve


General description

The Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve is situated in the coastal zone north of Cape Town. Located in the Cape floristic kingdom, this biosphere reserve is known for its mosaic of diverse ecosystems and habitats which include marine, beach and frontal dune environments, pans, wetlands and rocky outcrops. Many plant communities have adapted to the harsh environmental conditions (e.g. Elytropappus rhinocerotis shrublands, sand plain Fynbos with Phylica cephalantha or dune thicket with Euclea racemosa). The Langebaan Lagoon, one of the core areas, is also designated as a Ramsar wetland as it is important for many waterfowl.

About 800,000 people live in the biosphere reserve and there are also up to 300,000 non-permanent residents who stay only for holidays and weekends (2010). Agriculture and fisheries currently provide the largest proportion of employment, but fish processing, industrial manufacturing and the service sector are also sources of income. Management issues for the biosphere reserve concern mainly mining activities in the area, intensive agriculture, the invasion of alien species (Acacia spp.), uncontrolled fires, uncontrolled off-road vehicles and the over-utilization of the aquifers. Significant efforts have been made in the biosphere reserve to alleviate the degradation of the natural and human environment that has characterized the area for the past century.

In accordance with the recommendation of the MAB Bureau made when this site was designated as a biosphere reserve in 2000, new core areas consisting of the small Dassen and Vondeling Islands and their surrounding seas areas have been added, thus improving the representativity of coastal marine systems of this Biosphere Reserve.

It is hoped that the progress made in the promotion of sustainable development objectives and strategies will reach outside the biosphere reserve boundaries so that it might become a model for coastal zone management in whole of South Africa.

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Major ecosystem type

Coastal plains, marine-influenced fynbos area (Mediterranean sclerophyllous shrublands), rocky islets, marine areas; wetlands

Major habitats and land cover types

Dune thicket, Strandveld (Euclea racemosa shrublands) dominated by Colpoon compressum, Euclea racemosa, Asparagus capensis, Ballota africana etc.; sand plain fynbos (Phylica cephalantha shrublands); West coast Renosterveld (Elytropappus rhinocerotis shrublands) characterized by Elytropappus rhinocerotis, Eriocephalus africanus and Anthospermum aethiopicum; littoral vegetation (communities on sand, shell, calcrete, granite, shale); riparian vegetation characterized by Metrosideros angustifolius, Olea europaea africana, Rhus tomentosa and Podocarpus elongatus; freshwater wetlands; salt marsh communities in the Berg River and around the Langebaan Bay; anthropogenic old lands; woody exotic stands with various exotic invasive species such as Acacia cyclops, A. saligna, Eucalyptus lehmannii and Myoporum insulare; agroecosystems; stock farming; urban areas; gypsum mining; salt mining areas


33°00' to 34°00'S; 18°00' to 18°30'E

Area (hectares)

Total: 378,240
Core area(s): 47,730
Buffer zone(s): 172,643
Transition area(s) when given: ~157,867

Altitude (metres above sea level)

0 to +500

Year designated

2000, extension 2003

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Administrative authorities

Nationally: Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Tourism. Provincially: Provincial Administration Western Cape; Department of Planning, Local Government and Housing

Research and monitoring

Brief description

  • The use of Cape Gannets to provide ancillary information on the status of epiplagic fish stocks
  • Flora survey of the southern (proposed) CWCBR core area
  • Long-term monitoring and population dynamics of seabirds
  • Long-term study of demography and dietary changes of African Black Oyster Catchers
  • Groundwater resources
  • Tortoise populations
  • Wader populations in the Langebaan Lagoon and the Berg River
  • Inclusion of Dassen Island, Vondeling Island as marine core area for CWCBR

Specific variables

Abiotic: Groundwater
Biodiversity: Birds, coastal/marine, ecology, flora, island systems/islands, lagoon systems, methodologies, population genetics/population dynamics, reptiles
Socio-economic: Economically important species
Integrated monitoring: n.a.


Corrdinator contacts

Janette du Toit
Tel: 083 290 7687

Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve Board (Sec.21a)

P.O.Box 283
7435 Darling, Western Cape South Africa
South Africa

Telephone: +2783 708 4007
Fax: +2786 236 4374

Web site:

Contact address

R27 Tourism Hub, Cnr. R315 (Yzerfontein / Darling Road)  & R27 (West Coast Road) YZERFONTEIN

P O Box 283,

Telephone: +2783 708 4007
Fax: +2786 236 4374

Web site:

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