|A FIRST SYNTHESIS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL, BIOLOGICAL & CULTURAL ASSETS OF THE SOUTPANSBERG|
S. Foord* & A. Dippenaar-Schoeman**
Information on the spiders of the Limpopo Province, which includes the Soutpansberg, is still rudimentary. Most of the practising Arachnologists between the periods 18901970 were stationed in the coastal provinces where most of the earlier collecting and description of spiders was done. It is only in the seventies that serious collecting started in the more northern provinces. The bias could be illustrated by the mygalomorphs where, of the 281 known species from Southern Africa, only 16 so far have been recorded from the Limpopo Province (Dippenaar- Schoeman, 2002). This under representation of the fauna of this province is due to a lack of surveys and research.
The only quantitative survey of the Soutpansberg is a recent survey of the Western Soutpansberg (Foord et al. 2002) over a period of five years (19962000). Data on the spider fauna of the northern and eastern parts consists mainly of ad hoc collecting trips by museum curators and visiting scientists. Numerous specimens collected from the Soutpansberg have been described as new to science and this data is scattered through the literature and has not been summarized in any meaningful way. Numerous specimens are housed at the Spider Research Centre at the ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) in Pretoria. The unit has extensive specimen and literature reference in general and as part of the South African National Survey of Arachnida (SANSA), launched in 1997, is compiling an inventory of the arachnid fauna of South Africa (Dippenaar-Schoeman & Craemer, 2000).
We define the Soutpansberg as incorporating the mountain massif proper including a 25 km boundary stretching into the surrounding flat lands. Lajuma (23° 02S29° 26E), falls within this area.
During a five -year survey in the Western Soutpansberg, a total of 46 families represented by 110 genera and 130 species was collected (see Table 1). This constitutes 70% of the families recorded for South Africa, 26% of the SA genera and 5% of SA species. It must however be emphasised that collecting was almost exclusively restricted to Lajuma, an area less than 5 km² in extent. It still compares well with other more comprehensive surveys that have been undertaken in South Africa for example: Roodeplaat Dam Nature Reserve (98 spp,), Rietondale Research Station (55 spp.), the Karoo National Park (116 spp.) 4 600 km² and Kruger National Park (139 spp.) 250 000km². The richness of this component of the fauna/flora is even more remarkable when one considers that a country such as Switzerland, which is very much larger (39 770 km²), has only 875 spp, and 39 families. France with a size of 551 263 km² has 1 400 spp. Worldwide there are 106 families. About 96% of the species collected were new records for the area with 10 possibly new species. Descriptions of three new species have already been published in peer reviewed literature. These include new species of the families Miturgidae and Pholcidae.
Due to a lack of baseline information on spiders very little is known about their conservation status except for species lists of a few National Parks (Mountain Zebra National Park, Karoo National Park and Kruger National Park) and reserves (Roodeplaatdam Nature Reserve, Makelali Game Reserve and Swartberg Nature Reserve). No spiders are on the red data list. It is mainly the suborder Mygalomorphae, which represent the larger baboon and trapdoor spiders that have received some attention in the past. The larger Theraphosidae (baboon spiders) are in great demand as pets and are consequently regarded as commercially threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (De Wet & Schoonbee, 1991). It is suspected that the demand for South African theraphosid spiders has increased since the Mexican red-kneed tarantula was placed on the Appendix II of the Conservation of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). In February 1987 three theraphosid genera Ceratogyrus, Harpactira and Pterinochilus were added to Schedule VII of the Transvaal Provincial Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1983 as Protected Invertebrate Animals. At present all the Provinces of South Africa follow this recommendation as a guideline and permits are needed to collect and transport the above genera in South Africa (Dippenaar-Schoeman, 2002).
Some unique mygalomorph species are found in the Soutpansberg.
Major studies and publications
FOORD, S. H., DIPPENAAR-SCHOEMAN, A. S., VAN DER MERWE, M. 2002. A check list of the spider fauna of the Western Soutpansberg, South Africa (Arachnida: Araneae). Koedoe 45: 3543.
DIPPENAAR-SCHOEMAN, A. S. & CRAEMER, C. 2000. The South African National Survey of Arachnida. Plant Protection News 56: 1112.
DIPPENAAR-SCHOEMAN, A. S. 2002. Baboon and trapdoor spiders of Southern Africa: an identification manual. Plant Protection Research Institute Handbook 13. Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria 129 pp.
DE WET, J. I. & SCHOONBEE, H .J. 1991. The occurrence and conservation status of Ceratogyrus bechuanicus and C. brachycephalus in the Transvaal, South Africa. Koedoe 34: 6975.
Recommendations for priority studies required to fill any gaps identified
Hot spots of particular importance
Spider hotspots are more a function of which areas were collected in than anything else: these include: Lajuma, Hanglip, and Entabeni. The forests at Hanglip and Entabeni are home to several families that are only found in the Afromontane forests in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern and Western Cape. The only representatives of the arachnid order Opiliones from Gauteng and Limpopo Province are found here.
|Copyright: © Soutpansberg—Limpopo Biosphere Initiative|