The Terrestrial Ecology Section in the School of Biological Sciences of the Faculty of Science at the North-West University (NWU) expertise are in land degradation and restoration/rehabilitation ecology of arid- and semi-arid rangelands. The emphasis is on Ecosystem- Functions (EF) and Services (ES) regarding Sustainable Land Management (SLM) and to study the impacts and control of desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) on rangelands, as well as what technologies can be implement to restore/rehabilitate these lands.
As land degradation and desertification is a multifaceted problem, it is important to also consider aspects such as climate change, loss in biodiversity and the socio-economic impacts by people who use or manage the land for their livelihoods.
Objectives and outcomes of the three main International Rio Conventions of the United Nations, i.e. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Convention to Combat the loss in Biodiversity (CBD) and the Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), as well as their scientific bodies, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), including other bodies and organisations that operate at local and regional scientific and policy level, are considered.
The Terrestrial Ecology Section has carried out numerous research and development projects for National and International organisations, such as GEF (Global Environment Facility), IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), EC (European Commission), BMBF (“Bundes Ministerium für Bildung und Forschung” in Germany), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), NRF (National Research Foundation in SA), ARC (Agricultural Research Council), DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs), DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), SANParks (South African National Parks), Provincial Government Departments, other academic and research institutes, as well as private organisation (such as mines and seed companies). Although some projects were carried out all over the African continent, most projects were carried out in southern Africa, such as South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
The research projects aim to establish an interface between science and policy and to ensure that all scientific data within DLDD and the possible impacts thereof will be made available and more understandable for policy makers for better long-term implementation, not only in southern Africa, but all over the world. The latter also contributes to the capacity building and training of land users and managers, extension staff and other stakeholders in the agricultural and conservation sectors. The inputs and perceptions of local farmers and managers about SLM and restoration practices often form the basis of the research projects.
The Terrestrial Ecology Section of the NWU therefore does not only do research and scientific work in many ecological fields, but also specializes in the training and develop of under-and post-graduate students and to capacitate extension workers and environmental managers that can serve the community in agriculture, conservation and other related environmental fields.