Royal society lecture: Explaining why trees are invading grassy plains

2011-04-05 00:00

PROFESSOR David Ward of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Biological and Conservation Sciences Department will give a Royal Society lecture “Why are trees threatening our grassy plains?”.

Prof Ward will discuss examples from a wide variety of habitats, both his own results as well as those of his post-graduate students and with a focus on the most important factors affecting woody plant encroachment.

He said that woody plant encroachment affects the agricultural productivity and biodiversity of 10-20 million hectares of South Africa.

He said many people believe that either heavy grazing by domestic livestock or fire is the sole cause of bush encroachment. However, bush encroachment is widespread in areas where grazing is infrequent and light.

A number of small-scale and some large-scale factors may explain the causes of woody plant encroachment. Some of the most important factors may include increased CO2 induced by global climate changes and rainfall, disturbance and soil nutrients.

Author of The Biology of Deserts, Ward was awarded the Paula and David Ben Gurion prize for outstanding contributions to desert research and combating desertification. He received the University of KwaZulu-Natal Research Fellow award in 2010.

The talk takes place on Thursday April 7 at 5.30 pm at the John Bews Lecture Theatre, Life Sciences Campus in Pietermaritzburg. Light refreshments will be supplied. Inquiries: Edith Elliott, 033 260 5455. — WR.

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