North Eastern Mountain Observatories

Lowveld Savanna Observatories

Lowveld River Observatories

A platform for studying the impacts of global climate change, land-cover change, alien plants and restoration actions on the composition, structure and functioning of high altitude grasslands and savannas of the Escarpment mountains of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. The platform makes use of variation in land management and fire histories as experimental treatments against which biodiversity and ecosystem service responses are measured.

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A platform for studying the major changes occurring in the savanna biome of the Lowveld region of South Africa. Research centres on disentangling the impacts of climate, fire and herbivores (including elephant and other mega-herbivores) on the productivity and biodiversity of savanna ecosystems. The causes of bushencroachment, and the costs and benefits of bush clearing, is of particular interest, as woody thickening and encroachment are amongst the most significant changes which have occurred in the region over the past century, as is the case for most savannas globally. A second focal area is the sustainability of the harvesting of natural resources that contribute to rural livelihoods like fuelwood harvesting (the primary source of domestic energy in the region), Marula fruit and Mopane worms.

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The rivers of the Lowveld provide a variety of vital services to the region, providing freshwater that supports extensive agriculture, mining and eco-tourism. However all are compromised by damming, high levels of abstraction, reduced base flows and contamination by local pollution sources. This platform focuses on understanding the effect of these factors on river flows and riparian and aquatic biodiversity, as well as the role that protected areas play in ameliorating contamination, improving flows and sustaining diversity.

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Observatory Sites