Habitat loss research

Habitat loss publication list

 

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Coastal dune forest restoration

Maputaland, birds, and sand forests

Afromontane forest loss, South Africa

 

 

Habitat loss is currently the single most important driver of species extinctions. Preventing and negating habitat loss and degradation is therefore critical to ensure the preservation of our natural heritage. Acknowledging that habitat loss is important especially in my home continent Africa, much of my research activities has focused on this topic.

 

 

Coastal dune forest restoration

 

My very first research endeavor was during my undergraduate and early graduate student years (2001-2004). During this time I worked as field assistant for the Coastal Dune Forest Restoration Programme of the Conservation Ecology Research Unit (CERU) at the University of Pretoria (South Africa). The coastal dune forests of Northern KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) are situated on mineral-rich (rutile, ilmenite, zircon) land. Extraction of the minerals, done by Richards Bay Minerals is an invasive process. The 30-year chronosequence of forest regeneration post-mining does however provide interesting research opportunities. CERU used this opportunity to gain insight into the ecology and development of natural systems post disturbance. My four-year involvement in the project consisted of field research in the following areas: (1) ecological monitoring, (2) forest community convergence theory, (3) birds as seed dispersal agents for dune forest trees, (4) re-establishment of bird populations and (5) millipede community structure and composition as an indicator of the success of dune forest rehabilitation.

 

 

Maputaland, birds, and sand forests

 

My work with CERU extended towards a B.Sc (Honors) project working with CERU's Maputaland Biodiversity Assessment Programme. For this I investigated how birds respond to forest loss. My research focused on the critically endangered sand forests situated in southern Mozambique, which forms part of the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany (MPA) Biodiversity Hotspot. Sand forests in the area are severely fragmented by human activity (fire and clear-cutting). I found that many forest specialists, especially large-bodied frugivores, were highly sensitive to sand forest fragmentation. Further fragmentation of this landscape may therefore severely impair the ability of the sand forests to support viable populations of the region’s biodiversity.

 

 

Afromontane forest loss, South Africa

 

While doing my M.Sc. a special opportunity presented itself that enabled me to collaborate with the South African Wildlife Research Expedition of Global Vision International (GVI). GVI empower ordinary citizens (as volunteers) to do high quality conservation research. My initial collaboration with GVI focused on biodiversity conservation in the Afromontane forests in South Africa’s Blyde River Canyon area. Volunteers survey high – and low altitude forests, as well as the associated habitat matrix (pine plantation, eucalypt plantation, grassland and an isolated patch of fynbos) for reptiles, small mammals and invertebrates. The results from this work enable us to gain a better understanding in how to better conserve severely fragmented afromontane forests. Current research themes include trophic levels, and patch heterogeneity, and edge effects.

 

 

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