In joint work with the University of the Free State, we study how isolated mountains and rocky outcrops can help to preserve biodiversity. As study region we work in the grassland biome of the Eastern Free State Province in South Africa. In a first paper, now out in Biological Conservation, we present data on the butterflies present in this region.
We found that butterflies in the landscape matrix between the mountains were a nested subset of species from the mountains and outcrops, and there was little evidence that species with certain traits were limited to either habitat. This suggests that species can retreat to mountain refuges during harsh conditions and recolonise the surrounding matrix once conditions improve.
Ecological refuges such as these mountains and rocky outcrops can unify land-sharing and land-sparing because their targeted protection would support the persistence of species throughout wider landscapes.
In a new paper Tom Pinceel shows that crustaceans from ephemeral water bodies have different egg hatching frequencies depending on local climatic conditions. If the climate is harsher and less predictable, a lower percentage of eggs hatches after rains. This ensures that more long lived eggs are left that may grow during future conditions!
The work has been published in Oecologia
I visited the University of Rostock to consult with some of the world’s leading experts on the ecology of isolated mountain habitats known as inselbergs. We’ll be joining forces for a number of future projects combining insights from plants and animals to better understand how these enigmatic landscape features survived through the ages and how their biota interact with the landscape matrix around them.