Tipping points in southern Africa
The research will focus on using remote sensing, time series analysis and environmental modelling to identify impacts of climate change and human-induced land cover change on key vulnerable ecosystems in southern Africa, e.g. the fynbos and savanna/grassland biomes. In addition to being biodiversity hotspots, these biomes provides essential ecosystem services such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling and water production. In a developing, tourism-centric country such as South Africa, natural capital is of further critical importance to the sustainable economic prosperity and development of local communities. Finding the balance between man and the biosphere has, however, been a continuous struggle throughout human history. In recent years, this balance has been placed under even more pressure due to the detrimental effects of climate change on the environment. The project thus aims to address this challenge by identifying turning points in key ecosystems, linking these tipping points to drivers (climate change, overgrazing, alien plaint invasion etc.) and consequently predicting high risk areas and potential impacts of future climate and land use change scenario’s on these regions. Research outcomes will aid in the conservation, sustainable use and adaptive management of vulnerable ecosystems in the face of rapidly changing climate and landscapes.
Researcher: Liezl Vermeulen