The Magaliesberg region is virtually without equal in the world. The region is characterised by unique geology, topography, habitats and heritage. Despite being hundreds of kilometres inland, straddling two landlocked provinces - Gauteng and North West - the rocks of the Magaliesberg bear the ripples of tides which lapped the shore more than 2 000 million years ago. The ocean then met a land surface devoid of life and an atmosphere that was unbreathable.
The region is unparalleled in its richness of history and biodiversity and reflects many aspects of South African geology, biodiversity, human evolution and history.
It lies at the interface of two great African biomes – the central grassland plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah – with remnants of a third, Afro-montane forest. The landscape accommodates species from each of these biomes and the result is an exceptionally diverse fauna and flora that has drawn naturalists and explorers to the region for the past two centuries.
The biodiversity is matched by its unique human history encompassing a million-year time line from early hominids through Stone and Iron Age cultures, pre-colonial Tswana tradition and the South African Wars. In short, it is a priceless encapsulation of South African heritage and landscape and serves as a focal point for national unity and pride.
The rugged scenery and benign climate are especially suitable for outdoor recreation and the close proximity to the Gauteng conurbations and the mining city of Rustenburg make it particularly suitable for human use. Tourism, recreation and residential developments are expanding rapidly in the area, providing access to this valuable public asset while simultaneously protecting it for posterity poses special difficulties.
"The entire duration of human existence - let alone the lifespan of just one human being - is humiliatingly insignificant when compared with the period of the creation of the Magaliesberg." ~ Vincent Carruthers, author of "The Magaliesberg"
The Magaliesberg range was proclaimed as a Protected Environment back in 1977. This protection, and subsequent strong environmental legislation has helped to protect the Magaliesberg. However, the Protected Environment is a very tightly defined core area.
The pressure of development, the consumption of open natural spaces by so-called eco-estates or country living estates and man's insatiable need to ever more land, push at the boundaries of the protected environment. Areas adjoining the main range, some of matchless beauty and value, suffer continual encroachment and are in jeopardy of being spoiled for ever. Increasing pressure in natural and human resources is leading to uncoordinated, fragments and inappropriate development. Adding to the problem is poor infrastructure, a loss of biodiversity, the disappearance of heritage resources, decreased air quality and increased pollution.
Biospheres are designed to meet one of the most challenging issues the world faces today: conserving the diversity of plants, animals and micro-organisms which make up our living biosphere and maintain healthy natural systems, while at the same time meeting the material needs and aspirations of people.
Under the aegis of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the first biospheres were designated in the mid-1970s.
As of 2015 total membership has reached 651 biosphere reserves, including 15 trans-boundary sites, in 120 countries occurring in all regions of the world.
In South Africa the following biospheres exist:
Kogelberg - approved in 1998
Cape West Coast - approved in 2000; Extension in 2003
Waterberg - approved in 2001
Kruger to Canyons - approved in 2001
Cape Winelands - approved in 2007
Vhembe - approved in 2009
Gouritz Cluster and the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserves were approved in June 2015.
The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) add new sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).