South Africa has named Middelpunt Nature Reserve as its 29th Wetland of International Importance or “Ramsar Site”.
The Reserve (Site no. 2501 on the “Ramsar List”) is located along the headwaters of Lakenvleispruit, a stream in the Olifants River basin, approximately 14 kilometres from the town of Dullstroom in Mpumalanga Province.
The Site is a permanent freshwater valley bottom forming part of the broader Lakenvlei wetland system, most of which is located in the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment. It is one of South Africa’s highest rainfall areas, and the Site supports a variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms and plays a vital role in maintaining the genetic and ecological diversity of the Steenkampsberg Mountain Grasslands.
It is the only confirmed breeding site in South Africa of the white-winged flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi), a critically endangered waterbird with an estimated global population of fewer than 250 mature individuals. It further supports threatened and endemic birds such as the blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus), secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), African grass owl (Tyto capensis) and Denham’s bustard (Neotis denhami).
Besides its value for biodiversity, the Site is a source of drinking water for local communities and supports flood control and groundwater recharge and discharge. It is a natural laboratory for scientific and educational research and is used by local communities for spiritual and inspirational purposes. Nonetheless, the area is threatened by energy production and mining activities. The Site benefits from a restoration plan which was being reviewed and updated in 2023.