Subproject 2: Functional biodiversity in agricultural landscapes


Within South Africa, the dry Limpopo Province is particularly vulnerable to climate change (long term) and human disturbance (short-medium term). Future habitat degradation/transformation and climate change impacts are expected to have devastating consequences not only on the conservation status of biodiversity but on the loss of ecosystem services provided by biodiversity. Based on their known sensitivity to environmental change, certain taxa (e.g. ants, dung beetles, bats, birds) are useful ecological indicators.

We aim to investigate the community responses of selected invertebrate and vertebrate taxa (candidate bioindicators) to a range of climatic and vegetation predictors along the two transects representing elevation/rainfall/vegetation gradients. This study extends the traditional approaches which focus primarily on compositional attributes of communities to include examination of functional attributes. In particular we aim to measure thermal responses and behavioural interactions of ants in order to develop a mechanistic model of climate change impacts on ant biodiversity. Furthermore we attempt to quantify, via exclusion and dietary experiments, the value of pest control services of bats to smallholder farmers.

Links to other subprojects:
Through such an approach, this subproject will develop links between climatological and vegetation parameters and functional attributes of animal communities in mixed smallholder rangeland/cropland systems (SP04) in Limpopo.