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SAEON in the media

By Staff Writer
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James Blignaut, Professor extraordinaire attached to the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, and honorary research associate attached to SAEON, sounds a warning to society about the broken systems due to lack of proper management that need to be fixed everywhere in his article Meat, messiness and management: our planet is a disaster waiting to happen published in Daily Maverick on February 20. He says Wuhan was a tragedy waiting to happen; its broken systems had been there for a long time to see. Now a tragedy of human suffering is unfolding, potentially on a global scale. Why? Because the system was not considered broken.

In an article titled What livestock farmers should know about climate change, published in Farmers Weekly on January 31, Dr Louis du Pisani, national manager for production advice and development at the National Wool Growers' Association, cites the work of SAEON researchers that indicated that carbon dioxide fertilisation increases bush encroachment:

“The South African Environmental Observation Network has reported dramatic changes in the botanical structure of South Africa's savanna, grassland and fynbos biomes over the past 100 years. According to its researchers, the savanna areas are expanding into the adjacent grassland areas, while the existing savanna areas are experiencing a marked increase in bush density.

“In fact, thickets that are almost impenetrable to humans and animals have formed. These changes have even been observed in the drier savanna areas. The grasslands bordering the savanna biome are being invaded by trees and shrubs, while the rest of the area has experienced increased densities of smaller bushes and shrubs, such as slangbos.

“Even the drier grassland areas have not been spared. Savanna and grassland are estimated to provide 81% of total available veld grazing capacity in South Africa. Managing bush encroachment is therefore a high priority in these areas. In the savanna areas, farmers have favoured game farming as a means of relieving the problem, but the success of this strategy is questionable, as it is only the so-called megabrowsers, such as elephant and rhino, that are known to suppress this bush significantly.”

SAEON research associate Prof William Bond is cited in Daily Maverick of February 7 in an article written by science writer Leonie Joubert: SA’s wonder-plants underestimated in their potential to slow climate collapse. The article mentions that Prof Bond and Dr Nicola Stevens from Stellenbosch University’s Department of Botany and Zoology, along with other scientists, pointed out that the one million hectares being targeted for restoration across the continent are largely aimed at grassy biomes, a strategy which is based on this “erroneous assumption that these (grasslands) are deforested and degraded”.


A media advisory on the proposed visit of the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Mr Buti Manamela, to the SAEON Arid Lands Node, was published on the South African Government website on January 9.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute’s SKEP and CAPE electronic newsletters of January 2020 ran an article by SAEON scientist Dr Helga van der Merwe: The first vegetation map for Akkerendam Nature Reserve. Helga produced a vegetation map including a classification and description of three broad plant communities and 14 subcommunities for reserve and proposed area of expansion. By producing the vegetation map the conservation value of the current reserve, as well as the proposed expansion thereof, could be assessed.

SAEON’s research in collaboration with scientists from the Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute was mentioned in an article titled As the Karoo Hopes for an End to Its Worst Drought in a Generation, the Region’s History May Hold Important Lessons for Its Future published on on February 17.


Dr Tony Swemmer, manager of SAEON’s Ndlovu Node, was cited in an article titled Mopani worm bounty shrivels, published in an attachment to the January 19 edition of Sunday Times, and syndicated to Sunday Times Cape Town, Sunday Times KwaZulu-Natal and Sunday Times Express. Tony said that SAEON had been monitoring mopani worms in the Phalaborwa area for 10 years and had seen a decline in numbers. He added that research is needed to determine whether climate change is a factor in the caterpillars' apparent decline.

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