More than 190 presentations on the subjects of “Protected Areas and Conservation”, “Communities & Livelihoods Governance, Agriculture and Tourism”, “Biodiversity of Animals”, “Biodiversity of Plants”, “Mountain Invasives”, “Southern African biodiversity data”, “Education & Research Management”, “Water Resource Management”, “Climate Change”, “Archaeology & Heritage” and “Geo-Landscapes” allowed for the exchange of ideas on conservation of natural habitats and on undisruptive use of mountain ecosystems in the Southern Africa.
Session on biodiversity of invertebrates (14th of March 2022) had seven presentations:
Mark Robertson (University of Pretoria), in collaboration with T. Bishop (Cardiff University) and C. Parr (University of Liverpool), found significant increase of ant “Community Temperature Index" that was calculated by combining the temperature tolerance numbers for each species of ants at the lower elevations in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains, which correlated with the increased soil temperatures during the winter months at the sampled sites.
Caswell Munyai (University of KwaZulu-Natal), in collaboration with M. Muluvhahothe (University of Venda), C. Seymor (University of Cape Town), S. Mhungo (University of KwaZulu-Natal), G. Joseph and S. Foord (University of Venda), presented an update on the ongoing long-term biodiversity monitoring of ants in the Western Soutpansberg (Limpopo). Temperature and habitat structure fluctuations explained most of the observed changes in the functional diversity of the ant communities.
Stefan Foord, in collaboration with A.S. Dippenaar-Schoeman (University of Venda) and T.C. Munyai (University of KwaZulu-Natal), explained patterns of spider diversity in the Soutpansberg mostly by contemporary changes in habitat structure. Only insignificant portion of variation in spider richness could be explained there by “Middomain effect” (mid elevation peak in species richness).
Igor Muratov, in collaboration with K. Hunter (KwaZulu-Natal Museum), described ecological associations of terrestrial molluscs in different types of habitats in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains and showed the significance of microhabitats in the process of recovery of the natural environment.
Thembeka Nxele (KwaZulu-Natal Museum) presented the results of earthworms survey in three reserves (Hillside, Highmoor and Injisuthi) in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains and showed that native species were present only in the natural habitats, while six non-native species were collected only near buildings. One non-native species was found in the indigenous forest that could be an indication of possible displacement of native species in the natural habitats.
Adrian Armstrong, in collaboration with S. Louw (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife), found that the inappropriate burning practices might be leading to a decline of the Protea caffra population that is the host plant for the Critically Endangered Pennington’s Protea Butterfly Capys penningtoni and may lead to the extinction of that butterfly species.
Carol Kunene, in collaboration with T.C. Munyai (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and S.H. Foord (University of Venda), described the plans for application of multi-species occupancy models for biodiversity analysis and distribution of ants, beetles and spiders along the Waterberg Mountains (Limpopo).
It was productive and entertaining to have scientific discussions with the colleagues after long period of pandemic-related isolation.