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- ItemApplication of maghemite nanoparticles as sorbents for the removal of Cu(II), Mn(II) and U(VI) ions from aqueous solution in acid mine drainage conditions.(Springer, 2016-06) Etale, A.; Tutu, H.; Drake, D.C.The adsorptive removal of Cu(II), Mn(II) and U(VI) by maghemite nanoparticles (NPs) was investigated under acid mine drainage (AMD) conditions to assess NP potential for remediating AMD-contaminated water. The effects of time, NP and metal concentration, as well as manganese and sulphate ions were quantified at pH 3. Adsorption of all three ions was rapid, and equilibrium was attained in 5 min or less. 56 % of Cu, 53 % of Mn and 49 % of U were adsorbed. In addition, adsorption efficiencies were enhanced by >= 10 % in the presence of manganese and sulphate ions, although Cu sorption was reduced in 1: 2 Cu-to-Mn solutions. Adsorption also increased with pH: 86 % Cu, 62 % Mn and 77 % U were removed from solution at pH 9 and increasing initial metal concentrations. Increasing NP concentrations did not, however, always increase metal removal. Kinetics data were best described by a pseudo-second-order model, implying chemisorption, while isotherm data were better fitted by the Freundlich model. Metal removal by NPs was then tested in AMD-contaminated surface and ground water. Removal efficiencies of up to 46 % for Cu and 54 % for Mn in surface water and 8 % for Cu and 50 % for Mn in ground water were achieved, confirming that maghemite NPs can be applied for the removal of these ions from AMD-contaminated waters. Notably, whereas sulphates may increase adsorption efficiencies, high Mn concentrations in AMD will likely inhibit Cu sorption.
- ItemAvoiding toxic levels of essential minerals: A forgotten factor in deer diet preferences.(Public Library of Science, 2015-01) Ceacero, F.; Landete-Castillejos, T.; Olguín, A.; Miguel, V.; Gallego, L.; Miranda, M.; García, A.; Martínez, A.; Cassinello, J.Ungulates select diets with high energy, protein, and sodium contents. However, it is scarcely known the influence of essential minerals other than Na in diet preferences. Moreover, almost no information is available about the possible influence of toxic levels of essential minerals on avoidance of certain plant species. The aim of this research was to test the relative importance of mineral content of plants in diet selection by red deer (Cervus elaphus) in an annual basis. We determined mineral, protein and ash content in 35 common Mediterranean plant species (the most common ones in the study area). These plant species were previously classified as preferred and non-preferred. We found that deer preferred plants with low contents of Ca, Mg, K, P, S, Cu, Sr and Zn. The model obtained was greatly accurate identifying the preferred plant species (91.3% of correct assignments). After a detailed analysis of these minerals (considering deficiencies and toxicity levels both in preferred and non-preferred plants) we suggest that the avoidance of excessive sulphur in diet (i.e., selection for plants with low sulphur content) seems to override the maximization for other nutrients. Low sulphur content seems to be a forgotten factor with certain relevance for explaining diet selection in deer. Recent studies in livestock support this conclusion, which is highlighted here for the first time in diet selection by a wild large herbivore. Our results suggest that future studies should also take into account the toxicity levels of minerals as potential drivers of preferences.
- ItemBiogeochemical cycles and biodiversity as key drivers of ecosystem services provided by soils.(Copernicus Publications, 2015-11) Smith, P.; Cotrufo, M. F.; Rumpel, C.; Paustian, K.; Kuikman, P.J.; Elliott, J.A.; McDowell, R.; Griffiths, R.I.; Asakawa, S.; Bustamante, M.; House, J.I.; Sobocká, J.; Harper, R.; Pan, G.; West, P.C.; Gerber, J.S.; Clark, J.M.; Adhya, T.; Scholes, R.J.; Scholes, M.C.Soils play a pivotal role in major global biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nutrient, and water), while hosting the largest diversity of organisms on land. Because of this, soils deliver fundamental ecosystem services, and management to change a soil process in support of one ecosystem service can either provide co-benefits to other services or result in trade-offs. In this critical review, we report the state-of-the-art understanding concerning the biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity in soil, and relate these to the provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural ecosystem services which they underpin. We then outline key knowledge gaps and research challenges, before providing recommendations for management activities to support the continued delivery of ecosystem services from soils. We conclude that, although soils are complex, there are still knowledge gaps, and fundamental research is still needed to better understand the relationships between different facets of soils and the array of ecosystem services they underpin, enough is known to implement best practices now. There is a tendency among soil scientists to dwell on the complexity and knowledge gaps rather than to focus on what we do know and how this knowledge can be put to use to improve the delivery of ecosystem services. A significant challenge is to find effective ways to share knowledge with soil managers and policy makers so that best management can be implemented. A key element of this knowledge exchange must be to raise awareness of the ecosystems services underpinned by soils and thus the natural capital they provide. We know enough to start moving in the right direction while we conduct research to fill in our knowledge gaps. The lasting legacy of the International Year of Soils in 2015 should be for soil scientists to work together with policy makers and land managers to put soils at the centre of environmental policy making and land management decisions.
- ItemBiological and geophysical feedbacks with fire in the Earth system(Environmental Research Letters, 2018-03-06) Archibald, S.; Lehmann, C.E.R.; Belcher, C.M.; Bond, W.J.; Bradstock, R.A.Roughly 3% of the Earth's land surface burns annually, representing a critical exchange of energy and matter between the land and atmosphere via combustion. Fires range from slow smouldering peat fires, to low-intensity surface fires, to intense crown fires, depending on vegetation structure, fuel moisture, prevailing climate, and weather conditions. While the links between biogeochemistry, climate and fire are widely studied within Earth system science, these relationships are also mediated by fuels-namely plants and their litter-that are the product of evolutionary and ecological processes. Fire is a powerful selective force and, over their evolutionary history, plants have evolved traits that both tolerate and promote fire numerous times and across diverse clades. Here we outline a conceptual framework of how plant traits determine the flammability of ecosystems and interact with climate and weather to influence fire regimes. We explore how these evolutionary and ecological processes scale to impact biogeochemical and Earth system processes. Finally, we outline several research challenges that, when resolved, will improve our understanding of the role of plant evolution in mediating the fire feedbacks driving Earth system processes. Understanding current patterns of fire and vegetation, as well as patterns of fire over geological time, requires research that incorporates evolutionary biology, ecology, biogeography, and the biogeosciences.
- ItemBiomass increases go under cover: Woody vegetation dynamics in South African rangelands.(Public Library of Science, 2015-05) Mograbi, P.J.; Erasmus, B.F.N.; Witkowski, E.T.F.; Martin, R.E.; Main, R.; Asner, G.P.; Wessels, K.J.; Mathieu, R.; Knapp, D.E.Woody biomass dynamics are an expression of ecosystem function, yet biomass estimates do not provide information on the spatial distribution of woody vegetation within the vertical vegetation subcanopy. We demonstrate the ability of airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) to measure aboveground biomass and subcanopy structure, as an explanatory tool to unravel vegetation dynamics in structurally heterogeneous landscapes. We sampled three communal rangelands in Bushbuckridge, South Africa, utilised by rural communities for fuelwood harvesting. Woody biomass estimates ranged between 9 Mg ha-1 on gabbro geology sites to 27 Mg ha-1 on granitic geology sites. Despite predictions of woodland depletion due to unsustainable fuelwood extraction in previous studies, biomass in all the communal rangelands increased between 2008 and 2012. Annual biomass productivity estimates (10-14% p.a.) were higher than previous estimates of 4% and likely a significant contributor to the previous underestimations of modelled biomass supply. We show that biomass increases are attributable to growth of vegetation <5 m in height, and that, in the high wood extraction rangeland, 79% of the changes in the vertical vegetation subcanopy are gains in the 1-3m height class. The higher the wood extraction pressure on the rangelands, the greater the biomass increases in the low height classes within the subcanopy, likely a strong resprouting response to intensive harvesting. Yet, fuelwood shortages are still occurring, as evidenced by the losses in the tall tree height class in the high extraction rangeland. Loss of large trees and gain in subcanopy shrubs could result in a structurally simple landscape with reduced functional capacity. This research demonstrates that intensive harvesting can, paradoxically, increase biomass and this has implications for the sustainability of ecosystem service provision. The structural implications of biomass increases in communal rangelands could be misinterpreted as woodland recovery in the absence of three-dimensional, subcanopy information.
- ItemBody water conservation through selective brain cooling by the carotid rete: a physiological feature for surviving climate change?(Oxford University Press (OUP), 2017-03) Strauss, W.M.; Hetem, R.S.; Mitchell, D.; Maloney, S.K.; O’Brien, H.D.; Meyer, L.C.R.; Fuller, A.Some mammals have the ability to lower their hypothalamic temperature below that of carotid arterial blood temperature, a process termed selective brain cooling. Although the requisite anatomical structure that facilitates this physiological process, the carotid rete, is present in members of the Cetartiodactyla, Felidae and Canidae, the carotid rete is particularly well developed in the artiodactyls, e.g. antelopes, cattle, sheep and goats. First described in the domestic cat, the seemingly obvious function initially attributed to selective brain cooling was that of protecting the brain from thermal damage. However, hyperthermia is not a prerequisite for selective brain cooling, and selective brain cooling can be exhibited at all times of the day, even when carotid arterial blood temperature is relatively low. More recently, it has been shown that selective brain cooling functions primarily as a water-conservation mechanism, allowing artiodactyls to save more than half of their daily water requirements. Here, we argue that the evolutionary success of the artiodactyls may, in part, be attributed to the evolution of the carotid rete and the resulting ability to conserve body water during past environmental conditions, and we suggest that this group of mammals may therefore have a selective advantage in the hotter and drier conditions associated with current anthropogenic climate change. A better understanding of how selective brain cooling provides physiological plasticity to mammals in changing environments will improve our ability to predict their responses and to implement appropriate conservation measures.
- ItemBoth thyroid hormone levels and resting metabolic rate decrease in African striped mice when food availability decreases(Company of Biologists Ltd, 2017-03) Rimbach, R.; Pillay, N.; Schradin, C.In response to variation in food availability and ambient temperature (Ta), many animals show seasonal adaptations in their physiology. Laboratory studies showed that thyroid hormones are involved in the regulation of metabolism, and their regulatory function is especially important when the energy balance of an individual is compromised. However, little is known about the relationship between thyroid hormones and metabolism in free-living animals and animals inhabiting seasonal environments. Here, we studied seasonal changes in triiodothyronine (T3) levels, resting metabolic rate (RMR) and two physiological markers of energy balance (blood glucose and ketone bodies) in 61 free-living African striped mice (Rhabdomys pumilio) that live in an semi-arid environment with food shortage during the dry season. We predicted a positive relationship between T3 levels and RMR. Further, we predicted higher T3 levels, blood glucose levels and RMR, but lower ketone body concentrations, during the moist season when food availability is high compared with summer when food availability is low. RMR and T3 levels were negatively related in the moist season but not in the dry season. Both RMR and T3 levels were higher in the moist than in the dry season, and T3 levels increased with increasing food availability. In the dry season, blood glucose levels were lower but ketone body concentrations were higher, indicating a change in substrate use. Seasonal adjustments in RMR and T3 levels permit a reduction of energy expenditure when food is scarce, and reflect an adaptive response to reduced food availability in the dry season.
- ItemBridging the knowing–doing gap in South Africa and the role of environmental volunteer groups(AOSIS OpenJournals Publishing AOSIS (Pty) Ltd, 2016-10) Dzerefos, C.M.; Witkowski, E.T.F.The implementation gap between science, policy and practice has led to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services throughout Africa and is described in a case study from Limpopo Province, South Africa. In 2006, the South African National Biodiversity Institute first highlighted the Woodbush Granite Grassland (WGG) in the Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality as the only Critically Endangered ecosystem in Limpopo Province. Five years later (2011), the Critically Endangered listing was published in the Government Gazette No. 34809. After repeated and sustained efforts for many years from volunteers of a local environmental group - currently known as the Friends of the Haenertsburg Grassland (FroHG) - in 2015 the intent to formally protect 126 ha was published in the Government Gazette No. 2609. Unfortunately, the proposed protected area accounts for only 66% of the largest remaining fragment of WGG, which excludes an important colony of medicinal plants. Considering that only 6% of the original extent of WGG remains in an untransformed state the whole fragment should be conserved. Non-alignment of municipal spatial priorities, as in the Haenertsburg town plan from 1896, to provincial and national environmental priorities has resulted in numerous incidents that have degraded what little remains of the WGG ecosystem. Failure of the provincial authorities to act timeously to enforce environmental regulations resulted in the FroHG successfully involving national authorities to stop illegal land occupation while another incident involving an illegal fence was resolved 9 years after erection. A strengthened relationship with Lepelle Northern Water has resulted in better planning of activities in relation to an existing pipeline. This case study shows various avenues available to environmental volunteer groups in South Africa and suggests that long-term lobbying can yield positive results. Conservation implications: Formal conservation of WGG through the intended nature reserve proclamation represents application of environmental legislation (notably Listing Notice 3, National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998: Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2014), scientific recommendations and policy. Better cooperation between provincial administration and FroHG will benefit the protection and management of WGG.
- ItemCarbon lost and carbon gained: a study of vegetation and carbon trade-offs among diverse land uses in Phoenix, Arizona(Ecological Society of America, 2017-03-01) Hall, S.J.; Majumdar, A.; McHale, M.R.; Grimm, N.B.Human modification and management of urban landscapes drastically alters vegetation and soils, thereby altering carbon (C) storage and rates of net primary productivity (NPP). Complex social and ecological processes drive vegetation cover in cities, leading to heterogeneity in C dynamics depending on regional climate, land use, and land cover. Recent work has demonstrated homogenization in ecological processes within human-dominated landscapes (the urban convergence hypothesis) in soils and biotic communities. However, a lack of information on vegetation in arid land cities has hindered an understanding of potential C storage and NPP convergence across a diversity of ecosystem types. We estimated C storage and NPP of trees and shrubs for six different land-use types in the arid metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona, USA, and compared those results to native desert ecosystems, as well as other urban and natural systems around the world. Results from Phoenix do not support the convergence hypothesis. In particular, C storage in urban trees and shrubs was 42% of that found in desert vegetation, while NPP was only 20% of the total NPP estimated for comparable natural ecosystems. Furthermore, the overall estimates of C storage and NPP associated with urban trees in the CAP ecosystem were much lower (8-63%) than the other cities included in this analysis. We also found that C storage (175.25-388.94 g/m2) and NPP (8.07-15.99 g·m-2·yr-1) were dominated by trees in the urban residential land uses, while in the desert, shrubs were the primary source for pools (183.65 g/m2) and fluxes (6.51 g·m-2·yr-1). These results indicate a trade-off between shrubs and trees in arid ecosystems, with shrubs playing a major role in overall C storage and NPP in deserts and trees serving as the dominant C pool in cities. Our research supports current literature that calls for the development of spatially explicit and standardized methods for analyzing C dynamics associated with vegetation in urbanizing areas.
- ItemCarnivore conservation needs evidence based livestock protection(Public Library of Science, 2018-09) van Eeden, L.M.; Eklund, A.; Miller, J.R.B.; López-Bao, J.V; Chapron, G.; Cejtin, M.R.; McManus, J.Carnivore predation on livestock often leads people to retaliate. Persecution by humans has contributed strongly to global endangerment of carnivores. Preventing livestock losses would help to achieve three goals common to many human societies: preserve nature, protect animal welfare, and safeguard human livelihoods. Between 2016 and 2018, four independent reviews evaluated >40 years of research on lethal and nonlethal interventions for reducing predation on livestock. From 114 studies, we find a striking conclusion: scarce quantitative comparisons of interventions and scarce comparisons against experimental controls preclude strong inference about the effectiveness of methods. For wise investment of public resources in protecting livestock and carnivores, evidence of effectiveness should be a prerequisite to policy making or large-scale funding of any method or, at a minimum, should be measured during implementation. An appropriate evidence base is needed, and we recommend a coalition of scientists and managers be formed to establish and encourage use of consistent standards in future experimental evaluations.
- ItemChiefs in a Democracy: A Case Study of the 'New' Systems of Regulating Firewood Harvesting in Post-Apartheid South Africa(MDPI, 2018-03) Findlay, S.J.; Twine, W.C.Much of the international commons literature reveals a decreased functioning of local traditional institutions that regulate natural resource harvesting. In South Africa, it is believed that the creation of new democratic structures at the end of Apartheid has contributed significantly to the deterioration in traditional resource regulation and this in turn has led to the extensive resource degradation seen in parts of the country. Many of these assertions, though, remain anecdotal in nature. Given the high reliance by rural households on natural resources, and the serious negative implications that over-use has on livelihood security, understanding how well or poorly such commons are regulated is key to ensuring the sustainability of such resource-dependent populations. The aim of this study was therefore to examine systems of resource governance, focusing specifically on firewood, and to determine the roles of traditional and democratically elected community leaders in six rural villages spanning two chieftaincies in Bushbuckridge, South Africa. In each study village, five local leaders were interviewed and five community focus groups were conducted. Results indicate that most parties still regard the Chief as the ultimate authority for regulating firewood harvesting. However, overall firewood management appears weak, at best, across the region. Although some authors attribute this to community confusion over the roles of local leaders in a new democracy, we provide evidence that other socio-political factors, including political expediency, may be driving the increasingly relaxed implementation of these firewood management systems. With resource dependence remaining a vital contributor to livelihood security across the developing world and with many rural communities facing increasing strain under local resource depletion, these findings shed new light on the complex social dynamics underlying the widely reported weakening of traditional institutions in South Africa. In so doing, it offers insights into local firewood governance that can be used to combat these challenges and thereby reduce regional social and ecological vulnerability being experienced in communal landscapes across the region.
- ItemClassification and mapping of the woody vegetation of Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe.(AOSIS OpenJournals Publishing AOSIS (Pty) Ltd., 2016-09) Martini, F.; Cunliffe, R.; de Sanctus, M.; D' Ammando, G.; Attorre, F.; Farcomeni, A.Within the framework of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), the purpose of this study was to produce a classification of the woody vegetation of the Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe, and a map of its potential distribution. Cover-abundance data of woody species were collected in 330 georeferenced relevés across the Park. These data were used to produce two matrices: the first one using the cover-abundance values as collected in five height layers and the second one based on merging the layers into a single cover value for each species. Automatic classifications were produced for both matrices to determine the optimal number of vegetation types. The two classification approaches both produced 14 types belonging to three macro-groups: mopane, miombo and alluvial woodlands. The results of the two classifications were compared looking at the constant, dominant and diagnostic species of each type. The classification based on separate layers was considered more effective and retained. A high-resolution map of the potential distribution of vegetation types for the whole study area was produced using Random Forest. In the model, the relationship between bioclimatic and topographic variables, known to be correlated to vegetation types, and the classified relevés was used. Identified vegetation types were compared with those of other national parks within the GLTFCA, and an evaluation of the main threats and pressures was conducted. Conservation implications: Vegetation classification and mapping are useful tools for multiple purposes including: surveying and monitoring plant and animal populations, communities and their habitats, and development of management and conservation strategies. Filling the knowledge gap for the Gonarezhou National Park provides a basis for standardised and homogeneous vegetation classification and mapping for the entire Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.
- ItemComparative ethnoentomology of edible stinkbugs in southern Africa and sustainable management considerations(BioMed Central, 2013) Catherine Maria Dzerefos, C.M.; Witkowski, E.T.F.; Toms, R.Insects, such as stinkbugs, are able to produce noxious defence chemicals to ward off predators, nevertheless, some ethnic groups have recipes to render them delicious. We provide an example of edible stinkbugs (Encosternum delegorguei) used by two locally separate ethnic groups in South Africa, the Vhavenda and Mapulana, with a third group, the Bolobedu using them for commercial purposes. Structured interview schedules and observations with 106 harvesters were conducted to determine differences in use, nomenclature and oral history, methods of collection and preparation as well as perceptions pertaining to availability. The stinkbugs’ foul defence chemical and flight response necessitates nocturnal harvesting when the insect is immobilised by cold. The defence chemical stains the skin and affects vision yet protective gear is not worn. Damage to host trees was recorded when harvesters poached from plantations or private land, whereas, in communal-lands, sustainable methods were preferred. The legitimisation of stinkbug harvesting and introduction of a collection funnel could reduce conflicts with managers of plantations and private land. Two methods to remove the defence chemical for increased palatability were used. Preparation methods differed in whether or not water was used and also whether the head was left intact or removed. Stinkbugs have numerous medicinal uses, in particular as a hangover cure. Awareness and optimal use of beneficial insects, such as stinkbugs, in rural areas could lead to a reconsideration of current environmental management strategies, where harvesters act as habitat stewards and clearing, grazing or burning indigenous vegetation is kept to a minimum.
- ItemComparative studies need to rely both on sound natural history data and on excellent statistical analysis(Royal Society Publishing, 2017-09-20) Schradin, C.No abstract available
- ItemThe consequences of replacing wildlife with livestock in Africa(Scientific Reports, 2017-12-01) Hempson, G.P.; Archibald, S.; Bond, W.J.The extirpation of native wildlife species and widespread establishment of livestock farming has dramatically distorted large mammal herbivore communities across the globe. Ecological theory suggests that these shifts in the form and the intensity of herbivory have had substantial impacts on a range of ecosystem processes, but for most ecosystems it is impossible to quantify these changes accurately. We address these challenges using species-level biomass data from sub-Saharan Africa for both present day and reconstructed historical herbivore communities. Our analyses reveal pronounced herbivore biomass losses in wetter areas and substantial biomass increases and functional type turnover in arid regions. Fire prevalence is likely to have been altered over vast areas where grazer biomass has transitioned to above or below the threshold at which grass fuel reduction can suppress fire. Overall, shifts in the functional composition of herbivore communities promote an expansion of woody cover. Total herbivore methane emissions have more than doubled, but lateral nutrient diffusion capacity is below 5% of past levels. The release of fundamental ecological constraints on herbivore communities in arid regions appears to pose greater threats to ecosystem function than do biomass losses in mesic regions, where fire remains the major consumer.
- ItemCoping with spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability in resources and risks: Adaptive movement behaviour by a large grazing herbivore.(Public Library of Science, 2015-02) Martin, J.; Benhamou, S.; Yoganand, K.; Owen-Smith, N.Movement is a key mean for mobile species to cope with heterogeneous environments. While in herbivorous mammals large-scale migration has been widely investigated, finescale movement responses to local variations in resources and predation risk remain much less studied, especially in savannah environments. We developed a novel approach based on complementary movement metrics (residence time, frequency of visits and regularity of visits) to relate movement patterns of a savannah grazer, the blue wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus , to fine-scale variations in food availability, predation risk and water availability in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Wildebeests spent more time in grazing lawns where the grass is of higher quality but shorter than in seep zones, where the grass is of lower quality but more abundant. Although the daily distances moved were longer during the wet season compared to the dry season, the daily net displacement was lower, and the residence time higher, indicating a more frequent occurrence of area-concentred searching. In contrast, during the late dry season the foraging sessions were more fragmented and wildebeests moved more frequently between foraging areas. Surprisingly, predation risk appeared to be the second factor, after water availability, influencing movement during the dry season, when resources are limiting and thus expected to influence movement more. Our approach, using complementary analyses of different movement metrics, provided an integrated view of changes in individual movement with varying environmental conditions and predation risk. It makes it possible to highlight the adaptive behavioral decisions made by wildebeest to cope with unpredictable environmental variations and provides insights for population conservation.
- ItemDemographics of Eucalyptus grandis and implications for invasion(AOSIS OpenJournals Publishing AOSIS (Pty) Ltd, 2017-03) Musengi, K.; Archibald, S.Alien invasive species can have negative impacts on the functioning of ecosystems. Plantation species such as pines have become serious invaders in many parts of the world, but eucalypts have not been nearly as successful invaders. This is surprising considering that in their native habitat they dominate almost all vegetation types. Available theory on the qualities that characterise invasive species was used to assess the invasive potential of Eucalyptus grandis - a common plantation species globally. To determine rates of establishment of E. grandis outside plantations, we compared population demographics and reproductive traits at two locations in Mpumalanga, South Africa: one at higher elevation with more frost. Eucalyptus grandis has a short generation time. We found no evidence that establishment of E. grandis was limiting its spread into native grassland vegetation, but it does appear that recruitment is limited by frost and fire over much of its range in Mpumalanga. Populations at both study locations this played characteristics of good recruitment. Size class distributions showed definite bottlenecks to recruitment which were more severe when exposed to frost at higher elevations. Generally, the rate of spread is low suggesting that the populations are on the establishing populations’ invasion stage. This research gives no indication that there are any factors that would prevent eucalyptus from becoming invasive in the future, and the projected increase in winter temperatures should be a cause for concern as frost is currently probably slowing recruitment of E. grandis across much of its planted range. Conservation implications: Eucalyptus plantations occur within indigenous grasslands that are of high conservation value. Frost and fire can slow recruitment where they occur, but there are no obvious factors that would prevent E. grandis from becoming invasive in the future, and monitoring of its rates of spread is recommended.
- ItemDeterminants of seasonal changes in availability of food patches for elephants (Loxodonta africana) in a semi-arid African savanna(PeerJ Inc., 2017-06) Clegg, B.W.; O'Connor, T.G.Loss of biodiversity caused by impact of elephants (Loxodonta africana) on African woodlands may require a management response, but any action should be based on an understanding of why elephants choose to utilise trees destructively. Comprehension of elephant feeding behaviour requires consideration of the relative value of the plant groups they may potentially consume. Profitability of available food is partly determined by the time to locate a food patch and, therefore, as a foundation for understanding the influence of food availability on diet selection, key controls on the density of grass, forb, and browse patches were investigated across space and time in a semi-arid African savanna. Density of food patches changed seasonally because plant life-forms required different volumes of soil water to produce green forage; and woody plants and forbs responded to long-term changes in soil moisture, while grasses responded to short-term moisture pulses. Soil texture, structure of woody vegetation and fire added further complexity by altering the soil water thresholds required for production of green forage. Interpolating between regularly-timed, ground-based measurements of food density by using modelled soil water as the predictor in regression equations may be a feasible method of quantifying food available to elephants in complex savanna environments.
- ItemDiel-scale temporal dynamics recorded for bacterial groups in Namib Desert soil(Nature Publishing Group, 2017-01) Gunnigle, E.; Frossard, A.; Guerrero, L.; Seely, M.; Cowan, D.A.; Ramond, J.-B.Microbes in hot desert soil partake in core ecosystem processes e.g., biogeochemical cycling of carbon. Nevertheless, there is still a fundamental lack of insights regarding short-term (i.e., over a 24-hour [diel] cycle) microbial responses to highly fluctuating microenvironmental parameters like temperature and humidity. To address this, we employed T-RFLP fingerprinting and 454 pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA-derived cDNA to characterize potentially active bacteria in Namib Desert soil over multiple diel cycles. Strikingly, we found that significant shifts in active bacterial groups could occur over a single 24-hour period. For instance, members of the predominant Actinobacteria phyla exhibited a significant reduction in relative activity from morning to night, whereas many Proteobacterial groups displayed an opposite trend. Contrary to our leading hypothesis, environmental parameters could only account for 10.5% of the recorded total variation. Potential biotic associations shown through co-occurrence networks indicated that non-random inter- and intra-phyla associations were 'time-of-day-dependent' which may constitute a key feature of this system. Notably, many cyanobacterial groups were positioned outside and/or between highly interconnected bacterial associations (modules); possibly acting as inter-module 'hubs' orchestrating interactions between important functional consortia. Overall, these results provide empirical evidence that bacterial communities in hot desert soils exhibit complex and diel-dependent inter-community associations.
- ItemDynamics of the oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water interaction across the insect spiracle(Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2014-09-03) Simelane, S.M.; Abelman, S.; Duncan, F.D.This paper explores the dynamics of respiratory gases interactions which are accompanied by the loss of water through an insect's spiracle. Here we investigate and analyze this interaction by deriving a system of ordinary differential equations for oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The analysis is carried out in continuous time. The purpose of the research is to determine bounds for the gas volumes and to discuss the complexity and stability of the equilibria. Numerical simulations also demonstrate the dynamics of our model utilizing the new conditions for stability and instability.