Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems. The vast majority of these services are usually taken for granted, but they are essential for human wellbeing. There is a growing interest in ecosystem services for two main reasons:

  • to provide sustainable resources for human wellbeing that will meet the Millennium Development Goals and
  • to provide incentives for ecosystem conservation


The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment divided ecosystem services into four categories and this has provided a framework for ongoing studies of ecosystem services:

  • provisioning services (e.g. water, food, drugs and genetic resources)
  • regulating services (e.g. flood attenuation, herbivory, pest control and pollination)
  • supporting services (e.g. primary production, nutrient cycling) and
  • cultural services (e.g. recreational, spiritual and cultural benefits)

What we do

The Biodiversity Research, Information and Monitoring Division’s programme on ecosystem services focuses on two main issues:

  • How does biodiversity contribute to ecosystem services?
  • What benefits will the focus on ecosystem services provide for biodiversity conservation?

One of the initial thrusts in ecosystem services is that it provides benefits for agriculture. Food security is a key issue all over the world and agriculture is one of the main sources of land transformation, with concomitant impacts on biodiversity. Studies of ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes can explore the relationship between biodiversity conservation, sustainable land use and food security.

Insect pollination is essential in the production of several agricultural crops. SANBI led the South African component of the GEF/UNEP/FAO Global Pollination Project – a project which examined the conservation and sustainable management of pollinators for agriculture. Related to this work is the Honeybee Forage Project, of particular importance in South Africa where agriculture relies heavily on the managed honeybee – which requires adequate year-round forage for colony health.

SANBI was also engaged in the “Networks” project, a collaboration with the University of Exeter, in the UK and Université Pierre et Marie Curie, in France. The Networks project is funded by the EU through the International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES). The project uses ecological networks to investigate how indigenous vegetation provides pollination and pest control services to mango farms in Limpopo Province.

The work of the Ecosystem Services team can be summarised as follows:

  • Crop pollination services in South Africa
  • Honeybee forage
  • Natural enemies in the agro-ecosystem
  • Insect diversity, ecosystem services and land management practices
  • Rangeland productivity
  • Valuation of pollination ecosystem services
  • Operational model for classifying ecosystem services

Who we are and how to contact us

Permanent and Contract Staff

  • Prof John Donaldson (Head of Unit) (PhD Zoology)
  • Dr Colleen Seymour (PhD Zoology)
  • Dr Ruan Veldtman (PhD Entomology)
  • Dr Jonathan Colville (PhD Zoology)
  • Carol Poole – Projects Co-ordinator
  • Mbulelo Mswazi – Outreach and communications

Current Post Docs, Students, & Interns

  • Dr Anina Coetzee (Post Doc, University of Cape Town)
  • Sophie Chaney (Intern, Northeastern University, Boston, USA)
  • Victor Moinard (Intern, École Normale Supérieure (ENS) and University of Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France)
  • Simon Mofokeng (MSc, University of Free State)
  • Lavhelesani Simba (PhD, Stellenbosch University)

Past Post Docs and Students

  • Tlou Masehela (PhD, Stellenbosch University)
  • Mariëtte Brand (PhD, Stellenbosch University)
  • Dr Luisa Carvalheiro (Post Doc, University of Pretoria)
  • Simone Hansen (MSc, Stellenbosch University)
  • Marianté Herbst (MSc, University of Cape Town)
  • James Hutton-Squire (MSc, Stellenbosch University)
  • Tlou Masehela (MSc, University of Limpopo)
  • Annalie Melin (PhD, University of Cape Town)
  • Lucia Mokubedi (Intern, SANBI)
  • Madelé Mouton (MSc, Stellenbosch University)
  • Courtney Moxley (MSc, Stellenbosch University)
  • Lyndré Nel (MSc, Stellenbosch University)
  • Awraris Shenkute (MSc, University of Pretoria)
  • Lavhelesani Simba (MSc, University of Venda)
  • Gebreamlak Tesfay (MSc, University of Pretoria)
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