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New crab species discovered in Eastern Cape ‘forgotten’ forestshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6105New crab species discovered in Eastern Cape ‘forgotten’ forestsDane McDonald<p>​A new 'pearl white' freshwater crab species has been discovered in the 'forgotten' Eastern Cape forests of South Africa.<br></p><p>Prof Savel Daniels, a molecular taxonomist at Stellenbosch University, says crabs are relatively well studied in South Africa but for some reason forests have been neglected in sampling efforts.</p><p>“Nobody has ever intensively sampled the forests in the Eastern Cape where we (incidentally) found the species at Mbotyi," he told the FBIP.</p><p>The study formed part of the Eastern Cape Forest project, one of the Large Integrated Projects funded by the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP).</p><p>Mbotyi is a picturesque forested region northeast of Port St Johns and adjacent to the East Coast of South Africa.</p><p><strong>'Sympatry'</strong></p><p>The crab, which shimmers in the presence of light, was collected from under stones found in small streams which flow towards the coast.</p><p>In a case of what phylogeographers call 'sympatry' the pearl white crab lives alongside a known rust brown species belonging to the African freshwater crab genus <em>Potamonautes.</em></p><p><em><img class="ms-rtePosition-2" src="/english/faculty/science/PublishingImages/News%20items/Crabfigure5.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;width:300px;" /></em> </p><p>Like a divorced couple who still share the same house, the two related [but genetically distinct] populations are sympatric because they exist in the same geographic area and thus frequently encounter one another without breeding.</p><p>In a sense Daniels was lucky to have discovered the specimen with its striking colour difference compared to its counterpart, <em>P. sidneyi</em>. </p><p>In recent times and particularly with invertebrates, such discoveries, where the scientist has a clear morphological difference as a 'lead' for identifying a potential new species, are rare.</p><p><strong>'Colour morphs'</strong></p><p>In Daniels' line of work he often encounters 'cryptic species' where animals which are similar to the human eye are genetically very different. In other cases animals look different but show no significant genetic differences – different 'morphs'.</p><p>Daniels set out to answer whether the two crabs were indeed different species, or less spectacularly, two superficial 'colour morphs' with the one being pearl white and the other rust brown.</p><p>Back in the laboratory at the Stellenbosch University Evolutionary Genomics Facility samples from both groups of animals were subjected to DNA sequencing, looking at three genes known by geneticists as 'COI, 12S rRNA, and 16S rRNA'.</p><p><strong>DNA sequence divergence</strong></p><p>The DNA sequence divergence (i.e. the genetic difference) for the COI gene, usually a primary marker in animal genetic studies, was striking at 13.42%. </p><p>To gain a better perspective on divergence values molecular taxonomists need to look at which values from prior studies were used to designate something as sufficiently different to be called a 'new species'. </p><p>Daniels' paper, published in the <em>Journal of Crustacean Biology</em>, cited two prior studies with values ranging from 2.8% to 14.7% in the one, and 7.9% between two species in the other.</p><p>There could be no doubt that the shimmering pearl white specimen from Mbotyi was a new species to science.</p><p>Daniels found no morphological characteristics with which to distinguish <em>P. sidneyi</em> from the new Mbotyi species except for the striking colour difference. The latter was inspiration for the naming of the new species, one of the few opportunities for creativity in describing a new species.</p><p>As a tribute to the Xhosa people of the Mbotyi region Daniels decided to give the newly discovered crab the species epithet of <em>mhlophe</em>, meaning 'white' in isiXhosa.</p><p>He says the discovery is important as it highlights the biodiversity of the area, and further establishes the region as a 'biodiversity hotspot', a tourism draw card.</p><p>“Tourism in the region creates a lot of sustainable job opportunities," he says.</p><p>The Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) is a long-term programme to generate, manage and disseminate foundational biodiversity information and knowledge to improve decision-making, service delivery and create new economic opportunities.</p><ul><li>FBIP on Facebook and Twitter<br></li></ul><p>For more details contact:</p><p>Contact:             Dane McDonald  </p><p>Designation:     Science communicator</p><p>Cell:                 +27 (0) 72 1299 649</p><p>Email Address: d.mcdonald@sanbi.org.za</p><p>Website:                           http://fbip.co.za/<br></p><p><br> </p>
Invasive pines fueled Knysna fireshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5908Invasive pines fueled Knysna firesWiida Fourie-Basson<p>​​The replacement of natural fynbos vegetation with pine plantations in the southern Cape, and the subsequent invasion of surrounding land by invasive pine trees, significantly increased the severity of the <a href="https://ewn.co.za/2017/06/26/interventions-planned-to-restore-ecology-after-knysna-fires">2017 Knysna wildfires</a>.</p><p>This is one of the findings of a study published in the journal <a href="https://fireecology.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s42408-018-0001-0"><em>Fire Ecology</em></a> by a research team from the <a href="http://academic.sun.ac.za/cib/">DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology</a> (CIB) at Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela University, SANParks, and the CSIR. The aim of the study was to assess the climatic, weather and fuel factors that contributed to one of the region's worst fires ever recorded. </p><p>Over four days in June 2017, the Knysna fires burnt 15000 hectares, claiming the lives of seven people and destroying more than 5000 hectares of commercial pine plantations and over 800 buildings. </p><p>The researchers used satellite imagery to compare the landscape before and after the fire, including the type of vegetation covering the different areas. This information enabled them to estimate the amount of biomass consumed by the 2017 fire. </p><p>One of the main findings is that the severity of the fire was significantly higher in plantations of invasive alien trees and in fynbos invaded by alien trees, than in uninvaded fynbos. And while the weather conditions were extreme, they were not unprecedented, as similar conditions occurred in the past at a rate of approximately one day every three years. The severity of the 18-24 month drought that preceded the fires, on the other hand, was higher than ever recorded in the historical weather record, and this contributed significantly to the impact of the fire.</p><p>Prof. Brian van Wilgen, a fire ecologist with the CIB and one of the co-authors, says large tracts of natural vegetation in the southern Cape have been systematically replaced with plantations of <em>Pinus</em> and <em>Eucalyptus</em> species, increasing above-ground biomass from about four to 20 tonnes per hectare: “Given that more than two-thirds of the area that burned was in one of these altered conditions, our findings demonstrate clearly that fuel loads have substantially increased compared to earlier situations when the landscape would have been dominated by regularly burned uninvaded natural vegetation."</p><p>It is estimated that pine trees have invaded more than 90% of the Garden Route National Park's fynbos vegetation at various densities. Additional invasions by Australian <em>Acacia</em> and <em>Eucalyptus</em> species cover a further 29% and 14% respectively: “By increasing the amount of fuel available to burn, the fires become more intense and more difficult to control," he explains.</p><p>Van Wilgen warns, however, that events of this nature can become more frequent as the climate of the southern Cape becomes more hot and dry, and as the extent of invasions increases.</p><p>“The conditions that exacerbated the severity of the 2017 Knysna fires will occur again. People need to stay vigilant and implement fire-wise practices, and, more importantly, steer away from placing developments in high-risk areas in the long inter-fire periods.</p><p>“Our study underscores the need to implement effective programs to control the spread of invasive alien plants, and to re-examine the economic and ecological sustainability of commercial planting of invasive alien trees in fire-prone areas." </p><p>Some of the other finding include:</p><ul><li>The Knysna fires burned 14 958 hectares, of which one third comprised natural vegetation.</li><li>Of the land in the altered category, most (78%) was either commercial plantations of invasive alien trees (52%), or other land invaded by alien plants (26%).</li><li>A relatively small proportion of the burned area was natural forests (4%), or thicket (2%).</li></ul><ul><li>A policy of regular prescribed burning, practiced by the Department of Forestry in the 1970s and 1980s with the dual goals of rejuvenating the fire-dependent vegetation and reducing fuel loads, were halted in the late 1980s. Fire management then shifted to a focus on fire suppression to protect forestry plantations and residential developments, resulting in substantial fuel build-ups in natural vegetation. Leaving fynbos unburnt for long periods can treble the fuel loads, as has been shown in studies elsewhere. In addition, invasion of these areas can further increase fuel loads by 50 to 60%.</li><li>The Knysna's population grew by over 70% over the past 20 years, from 43 000 people to 74 000 people in 2018.</li></ul><p>The paper “An assessment of climate, weather, and fuel factors influencing a large, destructive wildfire in the Knysna region, South Africa" was published in <em>Fire Ecology</em> in August 2018 and is available online at <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s42408-018-0001-0">https://doi.org/10.1186/s42408-018-0001-0</a></p><p>The authors are Dr Tineke Kraaij, Nelson Mandela University, Mr Johan Baard, SANParks, Mr Jacob Arndt, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Mr Lufuno Vhengani, Meraka Institute, CSIR, and Prof. Brian van Wilgen, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch University.</p><p><strong>Captions</strong></p><p>A burned-out plantation near Harkerville, shortly after the 2017 Knysna wildfire. Photo: Johan Baard</p><p>Orderly plantations of pine trees in the background, and invasion by escaped pines on the <a href="https://www.gardenroutemeander.co.za/garden-route-klein-karoo/natural-attractions-gr/passes/garcia-pass-western-cape-little-karoo-south-africa-2555.html">Garcia Pass</a> in the southern Cape. These invasions can substantially increase fuel loads, leading to more intense and damaging wildfires. <em>Photo: Brian van Wilgen</em></p><p><strong>Media interviews</strong></p><p>Prof. Brian van Wilgen</p><p>Tel: 021 808-2835; Cell: 082 454 9726</p><p><br> </p>
Launch of the Digital Marloth Collectionhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5806Launch of the Digital Marloth CollectionWiida Fourie-Basson<p>A precious collection of the original botanical illustrations prepared for printing between 1912 and 1932 in Rudolf Marloth's <em>Flora of South Africa</em>, has now been digitalised by the Stellenbosch University Library.</p><p>The collection of 176 plates contains the original illustrations by botanical artists such as Ethel May Dixie (1876-1973), Esther Smith (1878-1954), Florence Amy Thwaits and Peter McManus, with handwritten notes and instructions for the printers by Marloth. </p><p>Marloth (1855-1931) is regarded as one of South Africa's greatest early botanists. He was a chemist and pharmacist who emigrated from Germany to the Cape of Good Hope in 1883. It is said that on the very first day of arriving in the Cape, he climbed Table Mountain and started collecting plants. Marloth's association with Stellenbosch University started in 1888, when he was appointed as lecturer in Chemistry and Experimental Physics at the then Victoria College, the forerunner of Stellenbosch University today. In 1922 Stellenbosch University awarded him with an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his contribution to the understanding and knowledge of the Cape Floral Kingdom.</p><p>Over the years, the Marloth family donated several of the original illustrations and plates to the Stellenbosch University Library. This collection has now been taken up in the SUNDigital Collections of the library. The Special Collections Division of the library also hosts many of his personal documents, correspondence and photographs.</p><p>Ms Ellen Tise, senior director of the SU Library, says the preservation of and access to these materials will contribute to future research, not only at Stellenbosch University but worldwide.</p><p>The formal launch of the Marloth Digital Collection will take place on Tuesday 31 July in the Africana Room, Stellenbosch University Library. During this occasion, the botanist Dr Piet Vorster, botanical artist Vicki Thomas and evolutionary ecologist Professor Anton Pauw will talk about the value of botanical collections such as this one from a scientific and artistic perspective.</p><p> <em>On the photos above, Rudolf Marloth, one of the South Africa's greatest early botanists, did much to introduce the rest of the world to the beauty of the Cape Floral Kingdom. </em><em>Photo: Stellenbosch University Library</em></p><p><em>Marloth was the first botanist to describe the pollinator of the Red Disa – the butterfly Meneris tulbaghia, better known as the Pride of Table Mountain. This is also the Western Cape's official flower. Image: </em><em>Marloth Digital Collection, Stellenbosch University Library.</em></p><p><strong>Media enquiries</strong></p><p>Marié Theron</p><p>Information librarian: Natural Sciences, Stellenbosch University Library</p><p>Tel. 021 808 4430</p><p>E-mail: theronm@sun.ac.za<br></p>
SU brings biodiversity and community togetherhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5710SU brings biodiversity and community togetherRachael Spiers<h3>​​​​The Ingcungcu Sunbird Restoration Initiative<br></h3><p><br>The Ingcungcu Initiative, named after the Xhosa word for “birds with long beaks", aims to re-open a migration corridor for nectar-feeding birds across the City of Cape Town by planting gardens of bird-pollinating plants on school grounds.</p><p>Led by Prof. Anton Pauw of the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University (SU) and Bongani Mnisi, head of nature conservation for the City of Cape Town, the initiative involves learners and teachers from eight schools across the Peninsula and numerous partners from the greater community. Ceinwen Smith, a private conservation and education consultant, is currently managing the project. </p><p>The project started in 2013 when Bongani, then a part-time student at SU, decided to write his master's thesis on how restoring the nectar-feeding bird community can identify and nurture leadership for biodiversity. His supervisors, Prof. Pauw (PhD) and Dr Sjirk Geerts (PhD), based at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, guided Bongani down the path that has today led to a highly successful biodiversity and community initiative.</p><p><img class="ms-rtePosition-1" alt="anton-pauw.jpg" src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/anton-pauw.jpg" style="margin:5px;" />The challenge, as identified by Prof. Pauw, was how to mitigate the impacts of the expanding city on its natural environment, while at the same time harnessing the benefits that biodiversity brings. “A unique aspect of the fynbos vegetation that surrounds the city is that the dominant shrubs depend on birds for pollination and subsequent seed production. However, the city is a barrier to the migration of these birds," said Prof. Pauw.</p><p>Although there are only four species of obligate nectar-feeding birds in the Cape, they are the pollinators of about 350 plant species.</p><p>In order to test the theory regarding the importance of habitat corridors for the maintenance of biodiversity, eight schools were chosen as locations for the cultivation of gardens containing bird-pollinating plants. </p><p>The eight schools were selected to form a corridor linking part of the Table Mountain National Park with the isolated Rondevlei Nature Reserve on the Cape Flats. Gardens measuring around 200 m<sup>2</sup> were established at the four high schools in April/May 2014 and at four primary schools in August 2017. The learners and staff from each school are involved in the preparation and planting of the gardens, and were taught how to identify and record bird sightings. </p><p><img class="ms-rtePosition-2" alt="bongani-mnisi.jpg" src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/bongani-mnisi.jpg" style="margin:5px;" />The opening of this migration route is especially important when fires temporarily decimate the vegetation, forcing the birds to leave in search of nectar. </p><p>“The project is still in a very early stage and the effects are still small. Malachite sunbirds were seen in the gardens for the first time in 2016. However‚ the effects on learners were more impressive‚ with a significant increase in their knowledge of nature," said Bongani.<br></p><p>Aside from SU being involved in the hands-on application of research findings, leading to scientific papers and improved environmental health, the initiative provides learners with an opportunity to become active role players in the creation of a more sustainable future. </p><p>Both the schools and the environment benefit from the gardens, which provide an increase in green spaces in the urban environment and an opportunity to connect with nature.</p><p><img class="ms-rtePosition-1" alt="google_s.jpg" src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/google_s.jpg" style="margin:5px;" /><br>“Our vision for the next 10 years is to grow the corridor right across the Cape Flats to the Stellenbosch Mountains," said Prof. Pauw.</p><p>There has been widespread support for the initiative and future plans include the possibility of an app to assist with identifying and recording bird sightings. The collection of seeds and sourcing of plants remain challenges for the dedicated team.</p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p>​​</p><p>​ <br></p><p>For more information regarding this initiative and how to get involved, please visit the following websites:​<br><br></p><p><a href="/si/en-za/Pages/initiative.aspx?iid=810"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Stellenbosch University Social Impact Initiative Profile</span></a></p><p><a href="http://www.ingcungcu.org.za/"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Ingcungcu Sunbird Restoration Project website</span></a></p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/Ingcungcu-sunbird-restoration-project-285157724989224/"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Ingcungcu Sunbird Restoration Project Facebook Page</span></a><br></p>
Exceptional honour for SU Botanical Gardenhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5705Exceptional honour for SU Botanical GardenCorporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie<p>​​Botanic Gardens Conservation International (<a href="http://www.bgci.org/">BGCI</a>), internationally known for its efforts in securing plant diversity for the well-being of people and the planet, has accredited the Stellenbosch University (SU) <a href="/english/entities/botanical-garden">Botanical Garden</a> – only the *second botanic garden in Africa and the first in South Africa to receive this honour. </p><p>To date (5 June 2018) there are nine** botanical gardens with accreditation.</p><p>BGCI Accreditation recognises achievements in plant conservation with institutions carrying out a range of conservation-related policies, practices and activities.</p><p>Accreditation can result in tangible benefits for participating gardens – such as recognition, peer review, creating standards for excellence, and funding –  and will act as a motivator for botanic garden leadership. </p><p>In congratulating SU in receiving the accreditation,  Dr Paul P. Smith, Secretary General of the BGCI based in the UK, said that the SU Botanical Garden is very special due to it being the only university-managed botanic garden in the Cape Floristic Region. “With dozens of threatened plant species only represented in your collection and in no other collections globally, the SU Botanical Garden is of critical importance for global research and conservation efforts. We have also seen large increases in requests from your collection from other institutions since you have started sharing your collections data with our global PlantSearch database in 2014."</p><p>He added that with various well-regarded academics and research groups within SU, the SU Botanical Garden provides the “perfect platform" from which to build international partnerships and drive various research and conservation projects. “Besides the collections, the expertise that has been built up in your Botanical Garden and University has a huge role to play in helping build capacity in other botanic gardens not only in your region but also on the rest of the continent.</p><p><strong>Conserving plant species on critically endangered list</strong></p><p>Comments Prof Stan du Plessis, SU Chief Operating Officer: “The accreditation is a valuable international recognition for the leading work at the SU Botanical Garden. The Garden has an important focus on environmental conservation and especially the protection and study of species that are critically endangered. This accreditation also reflects the increasing role that the Garden plays in the international pursuit of environmental conservation. We are particularly proud that the Garden is one of only two botanical gardens in Africa that received this accreditation."</p><p>He also credited Mr Martin Smit, former curator of the SU Botanical Garden as being instrumental in SU receiving this accolade. “Not only did Mr Smit greatly enhance the research value of the Garden – he for example introduced new standards of recordkeeping in the garden – he also initiated large-scale projects. These include restoring the heating system for the lily dams to accommodate the specific needs of the giant water lily, <em>Victoria cruziana – with the garden being the only garden in </em>Africa, apart from Madagascar, where visitors can observe this unique lily. He also renovated and enlarged the tropical glass house – now home to the world's smallest water lily, <em>Nymphaea thermarum</em>."</p><p>This critically endangered water lily disappeared from the Rwandan wild a decade ago, and there is only a handful of botanical gardens worldwide who have succeed in propagating and growing this sensitive little plant. On Smit's initiative the long-forgotten underground water reservoir was renovated, just in time to keep the plants alive during the current drought. </p><p>The garden's database has been digitalised and via the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8vchfDy34M">IrisBg database</a> the garden is now connected with other botanical gardens worldwide. This also means that visitors can learn more about the plants in via the downloadable <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=2892">Garden Explorer app</a> on smart phones.</p><p>The SU Botanical Garden is the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa.</p><p>The accreditation is valid for a period of five years with the expectation that gardens will maintain the necessary standards in areas of activity specific to botanic gardens, such as documentation of collections and supporting scientific research and conservation. </p><p><em>* The other being </em><em>Gullele Botanic Garden in Ethiopia.</em></p><p><em>** The accredited gardens (5 June 2018) are the Gullele Botanic Garden in Ethiopia; Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, USA; Jardín Botánico Universitario – BUAP, Puebla, Mexico; National Botanic Garden of Wales, United Kingdom; Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden, Laos; Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens, South Africa; University Botanic Gardens Ljubljana, Slovenia and Wollongong Botanic Garden, Australia.</em></p><p><em>Photo:  </em><em>Ms Mbali Mkhize, Botanical Garden Assistant, Mr Willem Pretorius, President of the Friends of the Botanical Garden Association and Mr Bonakele Mpecheni, Botanical Garden Assistant. </em><em>Photo credit: Stefan Els ​</em></p><p><em></em><br></p><p><br></p>
Can seabirds detect infrasound?http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5151Can seabirds detect infrasound?Wiida Fourie-Basson <p>​Can seabirds detect infrasound? And if yes, do they use it to navigate the vast oceans? <br></p><p>A physiological ecologist from Stellenbosch University (SU), Dr Susana Clusella-Trullas, will be charting unsailed waters as she sets out to answer this question in collaboration with a team of researchers from the USA, the United Kingdom (UK) and The Netherlands.</p><p>They have recently obtained a grant of R1.3 million from the International <a href="http://www.hfsp.org/">Human Frontier Science Program</a> as part of its <a href="http://www.hfsp.org/awardees/newly-awarded">Young Investigator Grants</a> for research into complex mechanisms of living organisms. </p><p>Seabird migration remains one of the phenomena in the animal kingdom that we still know very little about. Over the years scientists have managed to prove that some birds use the position of the stars and the earth’s magnetic field to find their way. More recently, a group from the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4831622/How-seabirds-cross-ocean-using-sense-smell.html">universities of Oxford, Barcelona and Pisa</a>, demonstrated that shearwaters rely on their sense of smell to find their way back to their nests on land after foraging out over the ocean.</p><p>Dr Clusella-Trullas will be working with <span lang="EN-US">Jelle Assink, a g</span>eophysicist from the <span lang="EN-US">Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute in The Netherlands; Samantha Patrick, a behavioral ecologist from the University of Liverpool in the UK; and Mathieu Basille, a spatial ecologist from the University of Florida in the USA.</span></p><p>The idea is to pool all their expertise in order to tackle this vexing question from every possible angle. </p><p>“As the physiological ecologist in the team, I will be examining the ear structures of various seabird species to test this hypothesis. Since some seabirds have tremendously long migrations, it is highly possible that they use infrasound as a medium to orientate, avoid storms and detect island shores. There are a few studies that suggest that homing pigeons can detect infrasound and some structures and mechanisms have been described for this group,” she explains.</p><p>As seabirds are often found as by-catch in fisheries, she will be obtaining fresh carcasses from various sources to do the research: “We will examine cross sections of the inner ear of these seabirds. Hopefully we will be able to identify the mechanisms that allow them to detect infrasound.” </p><p>As part of this process, she will also use 3D imaging techniques to look for the structures.</p><p>If they are able to identify the mechanisms that allow seabirds to detect infrasound, these will then be visualised and measured. The data will then be integrated by means of spatial modelling with data from the larger international collaborative project. </p><p>For more information about the project and their progress, visit the blog at <a href="https://seabirdsound.wordpress.com/">https://seabirdsound.wordpress.com/</a></p><p><em>On the photo above, Dr Susana Clusella-Trullas from SU's Department of Botany and Zoology. Photo: Stefan Els</em><br></p>
Sharksafe Barrier™ to compete in Innovation Summit’s pitching denhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5123Sharksafe Barrier™ to compete in Innovation Summit’s pitching denWiida Fourie-Basson<p>The Sharksafe Barrier™ – a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional anti-shark devices developed by researchers from Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth – is one of the technologies that will compete for potential investment in the 'Pitching Den' during the SA Innovation Summit taking place in Cape Town this week.</p><p>The competition is part of the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP-SA) – an international initiative that aims to address the most pressing energy, environmental and economic challenges of our time through promoting clean and innovative new technologies.</p><p>Dr Sara Andreotti, a marine biologist in SU's Department of Botany and Zoology, will be doing the pitching. She developed the Sharksafe Barrier™ in collaboration with Dr Craig O' Connell (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), Michael Rutzen (white shark conservationist and shark cage diving operator) and Prof Conrad Matthee (head of the Department of Botany and Zoology at SU). </p><p>This innovative structure is composed of an array of black plastic pipes deployed in the ocean, to biomimic a kelp forest when viewed from within the water. The pipes are anchored to the sea-floor and are vertically buoyant.</p><p>“Our work indicates that kelp forests deter large predatory sharks and that they generally avoid swimming through them," explains Dr Andreotti.</p><p>Furthermore, to enhance the effectiveness of the barrier, ceramic magnets are arranged along the length of the artificial kelp forest. Previous work showed that magnets deter shark species, including great white sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks.</p><p>The concept has been tested in Gansbaai, the mecca of South Africa's great white sharks. The research team built an underwater exclusion zone of 13 x 13 metres, and attracted sharks to the middle using bait. After 34 trials, and with 255 hours of video footage collected over two years, not a single white shark entered the zone. Smaller fish, like skates, herring and mallets, did enter the exclusion zone and moved freely between the kelp-like structures.</p><p>The results from this project was published in the journal <em>Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems </em>recently, with the title “<a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.2803/abstract">Testing the exclusion capabilities and durability of the Sharksafe Barrier<span><span>™</span></span> to determine its viability as an eco-friendly alternative to current shark culling methodologies</a>".</p><p>The Sharksafe Barrier™ concept has been patented by SU, and has been accepted in Australia (2013350811) and Europe (13821175.0), with applications pending in Brazil (BR112015012008-3), the USA (14/647,646) and South Africa (2015/04471).  (F2016/00959; F2016/00960; F2016/00961; F2016/00962). The Shark Barrier End Caps concept (F2016/00959; F2016/00960; F2016/00961; F2016/00962) has been granted as a functional design in South Africa.</p><p>Dr Andreotti says the technology addresses two major issues: the unjustified loss of human lives and the equally unjustified loss of marine life (whales, turtles, dolphins and sharks) due to the use of shark nets and drumlines: “Between 2011 and 2016 there have been 491 registered shark attacks worldwide, of which 43 proved to be fatal. Over the past 20 years, however, almost 4 000 sea creatures have been caught in shark nets lining the beaches of New South Wales in Australia alone."</p><p>Tourism is another important reason for protecting the world's great whites. In South Africa, the local white shark diving tourism industry is worth US$4.4 million a year: “The temporary disappearance of white sharks in 2017 has already forced one of the eight cage diving companies to suspend their activities" she warns.</p><p>The popular tourist destination, La Réunion Island, experiences on average a 40% loss in bookings after a shark attack. Between 2011 and 2016, there have been 19 shark attacks in this area, forcing the authorities to permanently close one of the beaches, she adds.</p><p>As part of the Global Cleantech programme, the public is invited to participate in an <a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScZVSYlk7IRJY3wFzDPH0-2QxaY_q_VC2HvG7TKnAFsDHvA0A/viewform">opinion survey</a> about beach safety and people's perceptions about sharks and shark conservation. <a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScZVSYlk7IRJY3wFzDPH0-2QxaY_q_VC2HvG7TKnAFsDHvA0A/viewform">Click here</a> to participate.</p><p><em>Photos: </em><span><span><em>Daniel Botelho</em></span></span><br></p>
Oceans are key to our survivalhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4941Oceans are key to our survivalSophie von der Heyden<p>Thursday (8 June 2017) is World Oceans Day. In an article published on The Conversation website on Tuesday (6 June 2017), Prof Sophie von der Heyden, from the Department of Botany and Zoology, writes that we must look after our oceans because without them our chances of survival are low.</p><ul><li>Read the complete article below or click <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-tribute-to-the-worlds-oceans-why-we-couldnt-survive-without-them-78945" style="text-decoration:underline;"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;">here</strong></a> for the piece as published. <br></li></ul><p><strong>Time to reflect on the big blue</strong></p><p><strong>S</strong><strong>ophie von der Heyden</strong>*</p><p>World Oceans Day, an international event that is commemorated on the 8th June every year, is a chance to reflect on the importance of oceans, whether you live next to the sea or many thousands of kilometres inland. Most of us do not realise the impact of the oceans on our daily lives, nor how humanity has changed vast parts of the big blue and its inhabitants. About one quarter of all species live in the sea (roughly about 2.2 million, with the current estimates of all species on earth at about 8.7 million) and their linkages with us are far-reaching and more pervasive than we can imagine.</p><p><strong>Oceans are key to our survival</strong></p><p>Water covers about 71% of the planet's surface, which means that it is not only home to much of life on earth, but it is also closely involved in many functions that provide a stable environment for life to thrive. For example, oceans are an integral part of our weather and climate patterns, absorbing, storing and redistributing heat through currents and they play a critical role in maintaining stable climates. They are also the largest absorbers of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the greenhouse gasses that actively contribute to global warming. </p><p>Oceans absorb about one quarter of all CO2 produced by human activities, providing an invaluable service to life on land, especially in mitigating some of the effects of human driven climate change. In addition, microscopic plants, called phytoplankton produce between half to 70% of all oxygen. To put this into perspective, researchers have tried to calculate how much oxygen humans use just for breathing, a figure that comes to over 6 billion tonnes of oxygen per year. </p><p>The oceans also provide many other important benefits; they have been extensively used to transport goods around the globe and they are a source of renewable energy from the action of wind and waves. Marine waters are also a potential goldmine for the pharmaceutical industry with some bacteria, sponges and algae showing great promise for treatments for diseases such as cancer. It is difficult to put a price on all of this, but researchers have tried to provide a monetary estimate of all that the oceans provide for humanity and arrived at a conservative value of a about US$2.5 trillion per year. Add to that the spiritual and cultural benefits and the sheer fun of being at the beach and the list of ocean services becomes very impressive. </p><p><strong>So why a World Oceans Day?</strong></p><p>If it isn't a 'catch of the day', we tend to forget about the myriad of life beneath the waves. This diversity is fantastic, from tiny microscopic plants and animals to the largest mammal that has ever existed on earth, the blue whale. Ocean life has evolved to inhabit many different kinds of environments, from the ocean surface to the deepest known point at about 11,000m and a range from frozen seas to tropical coral reefs. World Oceans Day celebrates this diversity and reminds us of the importance of the big blue. It also serves to highlight the plight that the oceans are facing from continued anthropogenic pressures. </p><p>Most people are aware that many of the fish, crustacean and shellfish stocks in South Africa and beyond are overfished and that the bounty of the sea is a fraction of what it should be. With over a billion people relying on protein provided directly by the ocean, it is easy to how much pressure humans are putting on natural resources. </p><p>Climate change too has contributed towards changing the temperatures and chemistry of the oceans. As the levels of CO<sub>2</sub> have been increasing in the atmosphere, so has the uptake of this gas into marine waters. The next effect has been that some parts of the ocean are getting more acidic, which is a real problem for some animals and plants that rely on calcium carbonate as part of their bodies, that are literally dissolving in these new environments. </p><p>In addition, temperatures have also been changing in the oceans, which has led to large-scale shifts in marine life; for example, in their search for cooler some fish species in the North Atlantic have been documented to shift their ranges towards the North Pole or into greater depths. Pollution, as effluent, agricultural run off that includes fertilisers and pesticides and plastics are also heavily contributing towards killing marine species at unprecedented rates.</p><p>As a global collective, with many of us living far from the coastline, we need to become more aware of the far-reaching consequences of our daily activities and how these play out not only on land, but also in the sea. All of us should be contributing towards the safeguarding of the big blue, because without it the chances of our own survival are very low indeed. So let's celebrate World Oceans Day and with it our future.   </p><p>---------------------</p><p>*<em>Sophie von der Heyden is an Associate Professor of Marine Genomics and Conservation in the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University. She is the author of the popular 'Southern African Seashores – a Guide for Young Explorers' (2012) published by Struik Nature. </em></p><p><br></p>
Book donation boosts Iimbovane ant projecthttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4935Book donation boosts Iimbovane ant projectMedia and communication, Faculty of Science<p>The Iimbovane Outreach Project has received a generous donation of books, which will be used to help in the teaching of biodiversity science to the high school learners.  </p><p>The donation of 50 copies of the first ever guide to ants of Southern Africa, was made possible by the Mapula Trust and the author, Peter Slingsby. While Peter is well renowned for his maps, he is also an avid ant enthusiast and author of several books on rock art of the southern Cape and Cederberg. </p><p>His new book, <em>Ants of Southern Africa: a Friendly Guide</em> was published in March 2017.<img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/AllItems/Coverantbook.jpg" alt="Coverantbook.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="margin:5px;width:191px;height:248px;" /> </p><p>The donation was handed over during a presentation by Peter where he explained how his lifelong passion for ants translated into a brilliant new field guide. His passion started from a young age, sparked by a book written by the eminent South African entomologist, Sydney Harold Skaife, and continued throughout his adult life. </p><p>What struck Peter was the lack of knowledge on ants freely available to the public. He decided to solve this by writing the book which contains high quality photographs of live ants. </p><p>"<em>Botanists use dried plants in herbaria, which the public will get bored of, as the need to see the live plants to gain interest; similarly, scientists need pinned ants in a reference collection for studies, the public however, need to see live ants</em>" explains Peter.<img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/AllItems/IMG_3567.jpg" alt="IMG_3567.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:410px;height:361px;" /> </p><p>With inputs and guidance from some of the world's leading experts, Peter has filled 256 full-colour pages with descriptions of some 250 species, with mentions of 400 more. The book<em> </em>is filled with fabulous drawings by Peter, photographs by Philip Herbst, and the best of fifty images from <a href="https://www.ispotnature.org/communities/southern-africa">iSpot</a> contributors. <a href="https://www.ispotnature.org/communities/southern-africa">iSpot</a> is an online community wherein anyone can post and contribute to identification of photographs of any living organism. </p><p>Over the years, Peter has worked with several environmental education organisations, teaching children about ants and myrmechochory (seed dispersal by ants). Upon hearing about the work that Iimbovane does, Peter, with the financial support from the Mapula Trust, donated 50 copies of the guide book to the <a href="file:///C:/Users/dorette/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/WXDH7L5V/www0.sun.ac.za/iimbovane">Iimbovane ant project</a>. </p><p><a href="file:///C:/Users/dorette/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/WXDH7L5V/www0.sun.ac.za/iimbovane">Iimbovane</a> is a science outreach project, based at the Stellenbosch University, which uses ants as a model species to teach learners about biodiversity and science.  </p><p>"<em>This is a very welcome addition to the resources of the Iimbovane project. We will use the donated books during our workshops and field excursions to introduce learners to the full diversity of the species. The brilliant photographs and ants facts will be used to enrich our classroom lessons on ant biology, their social behaviour and biological classification. These books are instrumental in our efforts to educate the youth about biodiversity</em>" says Dorette du Plessis, from the <a href="file:///F:/www0.sun.ac.za/iimbovane">Iimbovane ant project</a>. </p><p>For more information about the book, contact Peter at <a href="mailto:slingsby@icon.co.za">slingsby@icon.co.za</a></p><p>The book can be ordered from <a href="http://www.slingsbymaps.com/">www.slingsbymaps.com</a> <br></p><p><em>On the photo, Dorette du Plessis from the Iimbivane-ant project with the writer, Peter Slingsby</em><br></p>
SU researchers aim to grow research collaboration with African countrieshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4817SU researchers aim to grow research collaboration with African countriesWiida Fourie-Basson<p>'Orphan crops' and the impact of an invasive weed on subsistence farmers in Nigeria are two of the topics Stellenbosch University (SU) researchers will investigate as part of a research visit funded by SU's Centre for Collaboration in Africa (CCA) and the International Foundation for Science (IFS).</p><p>Dr Ethel Phiri and Dr Natasha Mothapo, postdoctoral fellows in SU's departments of genetics and botany and zoology, are visiting the University of Lagos from 17 to 22 April 2017. During this time they will both present seminars, while Dr Mothapo will conclude the final stage of a research project into subsistence farmers' perceptions and use of orphan crops.</p><p>They will also be hosted by Prof. Linus Opara, holder of the S<a href="/english/faculty/agri/postharvest-technology/Pages/default.aspx">ARChI research chair in postharvest technology </a>at SU and currently on sabbatical in Nigeria.</p><p>Their main aim is to establish and grow networks with African universities in order to strengthen the African research agenda: "As young and emerging researchers in South Africa, we have a vested interest in African research and would like to maintain the focus of our research within the continent," they comment.</p><p>Dr Mothapo, who is also team coordinator of a collaborative project funded by the IFS, will use the opportunity to complete a survey investigating the socio-economic impacts of an invasive weed on subsistence farmers and their perceptions thereof.</p><p>She explains: "Farmers perceive some invasive plant species as being good in improving soil fertility, but often these plants cause damage to crops and reduce yield significantly. These perceptions also limit invasive species management plans.</p><p>"We will also talk to farmers to understand how they use and perceive orphan and other underutilised crops. While the major food crops like maize, wheat and rice dominate global production, so-called orphan crops have the potential to be of economic and agronomic significance for developing countries struggling with food security and climate change," she adds.</p><p>In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, orphan crops like sorghum and millets are more important than rice and wheat.  However, because they are not traded internationally, orphan crops have received less attention in terms of research and agricultural training.</p><p>"We are the generation of researchers that should be focusing on Africa's research problems," Dr Phiri concludes.<br></p><p><em>Op die foto, dr. Ethel Phiri (links) en dr. Natasha Mothapo. Foto: Wiida Fourie</em><br></p><p><br></p>