The ecoregion Drakensberg alti-montane grasslands and woodlands extends along the Drakensberg Mountain Rang in Kwazulu Natal. The Drakensberg is one of the world’s oldest centers of plant endemism. The Drakensberg Mountains is the southernmost point of the Afromontane regional centre of endemism, and supports endemic plants, amphibians, birds and reptiles. The highest altitude portions of this ecoregion have been equated to Alpine tundra vegetation by some researchers. The high rainfall generates many mountain streams and rivers, including the sources of the Orange River, southern Africa’s longest, and the Tugela River. These mountains also have the world’s second-highest series of waterfalls, the Tugela Falls (Thukela Falls), which have a total drop of 947 metres. The rivers that run from the Drakensberg are an essential resource for South Africa’s economy, providing water for the industrial provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng, which contains the city of Johannesburg. The climate is wet and cool at the high altitudes, which experience snowfall in winter.The mountains are also a valuable cultural resource containing thousands of ancient Bushmen rock paintings.
At the highest elevations in rocky areas of the Drakensberg, habitats are relatively intact. However, at lower elevations, areas not designated as protected are severely threatened. Heavy grazing pressure by domestic species alters the ecosystem and makes the existing habitats vulnerable to encroachment by vegetation found in Karoo. It has been estimated that by 1986, more than 37 percent of the original extent of the Afromontane vegetation had been transformed, mostly from the clearing of forest on lower slopes for agriculture and timber production. The stocking rates of grazing animals in Lesotho are currently estimated to exceed carrying capacity by 300 percent.