3. East meets West: Natural History and Conservation in the Van Stadens Mountains
The Van Stadens Mountains near Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape are an important bastion of the Fynbos Biome. This is the furthest east one can encounter several plant lineages that are typical of the Cape, with many species belonging to these lineages being restricted to these mountains. However, the Van Stadens Mountains are also a melting pot of biomes, with the Fynbos of mountain slopes interspersed with Subtropical Thicket in drier valleys and Afrotemperate Forest in wetter gorges. During this field trip, we will explore the natural history and ecology of these diverse landscapes, meeting several endemic and threatened plant species along the way. Participants will also learn about the challenges faced by conservation in the area, as well as the successful conservation projects implemented by the Friends of Van Stadens volunteer group, including removal of invasive alien plants, propagation of indigenous plants, and reintroduction of locally extinct threatened plant species. The field trip will take place over a single day at the Lady Slipper Nature Reserve and the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve.