Over the last two decades, the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust (LHSKT) has made a significant impact on conservation in the Succulent Karoo biome of South Africa. This has been done primarily through the purchase of land for incorporation into formally protected areas. The LHSKT has since supported diverse projects in biodiversity stewardship, research, and strengthening institutional capacity.

In an effort to address the research needs in this biodiversity hotspot, the Trust has initiated the development of a research strategy to address current knowledge gaps that are relevant to its mandate which is concerned with the ‘preservation, restoration, conservation and promotion of indigenous plants of the Succulent Karoo’. The research strategy will address key research needs and knowledge gaps across a range of biological, conservation and social science disciplines.

Through the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa’s (WWF-SA’s) Land Programme, the research strategy will be executed through partnerships with researchers and students interested in work in the Succulent Karoo. The research initiative will provide funding mainly through bursaries available to students pursuing postgraduate studies from honours to doctoral level. In addition, opportunities for post-doctoral positions in relevant academic institutions will also be considered.

Current project

A PhD student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) was awarded a LHSKT bursary in 2017. The research study aims to develop a method to assess the land degradation status of the Namaqualand region. The spatial information produced will allow biodiversity conservation planners to focus conservation efforts where important biodiversity is most at risk.

Workshop at AZEF

LHSKT and WWF-SA held a workshop focused on developing the research strategy at the Arid Zone Ecology Forum’s (AZEF) annual conference in Kimberley from 7 to 10 October 2019. A special session was structured within the conference programme that ensured the participation of all 80 conference delegates.

The key objectives for this workshop were to:

  • Present and discuss the relevance of the identified research priorities;
  • Identify new research projects;
  • Identify and develop a database of researchers and students interested in research in the Succulent Karoo;
  • Discuss the possibility of setting up of a research committee; and
  • Discuss the potential of using AZEF as the main platform for this research initiative.

The LHSKT and WWF-SA workshop was a great success and numerous project ideas and research gaps for the Succulent Karoo were identified. Keep an eye open on the WWF-SA website for announcements of upcoming projects and research opportunities with the LHSKT and WWF for the Succulent Karoo.

For more information contact Onkemetse Nteta on onteta@wwf.org.za

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