Most of the Province (71%) falls within the Savannah Biome with its associated Bushveld vegetation. The remainder falls within the Grassland Biome, which contains a wide variety of grasses typical of arid areas.
Ten different vegetation types are recognised, mostly belonging to the thornveld, bushveld or savannah grassland categories. With the east-west variation in climate and rainfall, there is a corresponding gradation in the vegetation types.
The vegetation of the arid and semi-arid western region largely comprises Kalahari thornveld and shrub bushveld, while the central region is dominated by dry cymbopogon-themeda veld and the eastern region is characterised by a number of mixed bushveld types.
The North West Province has wide array of species, ecosystem and habitats. This is largely due to the diverse nature of the Province’s landscapes and variation in climate.
The Province has several endemic species (such as the Aloe peglerae in the Magaliesberg), as well as rare and threatened species (e.g. wild dog). The indigenous fauna and flora inhabiting the numerous dolomitic eyes (particularly the aquatic invertebrates and fish) are also considered to be unique.
The numerous non-perennial pans occurring in the Province provide important breeding and feeding habitat for waterfowl, amphibians and invertebrates which are adapted to the seasonal nature of these waterbodies.
The Province has a total of 14 national parks and provincial reserves within its borders. The most well known are the Pilanesberg and Madikwe National Parks, which are administered by the North West Parks and Tourism Board. The Province also shares the Magaliesberg Protected Natural Environment with Gauteng.
The total size of formally protected areas is 283 308 ha which amounts to approximately 2,4 % of the Province. This includes national parks, provincial nature reserves, private nature reserves and protected natural environments (e.g. Magaliesberg). This falls below the 10% of each vegetation type suggested by the 1992 UNCED Convention.
There are 10 registered conservancies and several game farms or ranches in the Province. Of the total area of about 160 000ha of land committed to game farming, about 6% can be classified as true game farms. The remainder comprises game camps (fenced off portions of farms) that vary in size. The species being conserved on these farms are predominantly antelope such as kudu, duiker and steenbok. Other animals such as sable, Cape buffalo, gemsbok, eland, red hartebeest, blue wildebeest and even black rhinoceros also occur in the Province. The North West Province has some of the largest traders of wildlife in South Africa, whotrade both nationally and internationally, bringing much-valued foreign exchange to the Province.
Several exotic species such as parrots and ornamental fish imported from elsewhere in the world are important for the well-established pet trade in the Province.
Trade in indigenous medicinal plants (e.g. devil’s claw Harpagophytum procumbens) occurs in the Province, which requires regulation to ensure that sustainable harvesting is practiced.
Provincial trade in biodiversity resources is difficult to quantify due to its multi-faceted scope.
Fishing and fishery resources in the North West Province largely occur in the Province’s impoundments. Fishing in these dams is mostly by recreational and sport fishermen. The main species being targeted for recreational angling are barbel, bass, carp, kurper, mudfish and yellowfish.
For many rural communities in the Province, where food security is a major problem, fishing provides a source of protein. The development of community based small-scale commercial fisheries on several dams in the Province is underway.
The surface waters in the Province are in the form of rivers, dams, pans, wetlands and dolomitic eyes fed by aquifers. Perennial surface water resources are generally scarce, particularly in the semi-arid western portion of the Province. Runoff as a percentage of the precipitation ranges from less than 1% in the west to approximately 7% in the eastern region, with the average runoff (6%) being below the national average of 9%. The main rivers are the Crocodile, Groot Marico, Hex, Elands, Vaal, Mooi, Harts and Molopo rivers.
The Province has over 40 wetlands and one RAMSAR site, Barberspan, which is recognised as a wetland of international importance.
The Province has a large reservoir of subterranean water in the form of fractured aquifers and dolomitic compartments. However, recharge to this precious resource is considered to be one of the lowest in South Africa with an average of less than 10 mm per year in the western region of the Province.
The North West Province relies heavily on ground water resources to meet its needs. Sources of pollution of groundwater resources include mining and industrial activities, agriculture and domestic use. Main groundwater water quality issues in the Province include high levels of dissolved mineral levels, nitrates and fluoride concentrations in certain areas, due to both natural and human-induced factors.