Arid Zone Ecology Forum

A Non-Profit Organisation focused on research in the arid zone of southern Africa

Keynote Speakers

Carly Cowell

Regional Ecologist - South Africa National Parks (SANParks)

Since an early age Carly has known that she wanted to work outdoors and make a difference in the world. This determination and a particular interest in plants earned her a Scholarship to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) to study for a National Diploma (ND) in Horticulture. She took her studies further by obtaining a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Horticulture (specialising in tissue culture and genetics). From 2004 to 2010 she worked for the Millennium Seed Bank Project, establishing the Project in the Cape and collecting seed of over 1500 species for long-term conservation. She then did her Master of Technology (M.Tech) degree through CPUT in Restoration Ecology, investigating the use of direct sown seed on old fields for the rehabilitation of the Cape Flats Sand Fynbos.  In 2010 she moved to South Africa National Parks (SANParks) as a Regional Ecologist, dealing with a broad range of issues across six parks. This involves a lot of fieldwork; working with park managers, scientists, and the general public, requiring communication, administration and research/writing skills. Carly’s current PhD studies through the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the faculty of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, focus on Protected Area Performance using herbarium and survey datasets to investigate extinction debt in National Parks.

South African National Parks Arid Region Parks: Now and into the Future 


Protected areas are a major tool in achieving the long-term objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) via the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). The GSPC was revised in 2010 in Aichi Japan. Of particular interest to protected areas is Target 11 which aims to conserve at least 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas by 2020.The South African government is a signatory of the CBD and has enabled a series of conservation acts and regulations that rely on protected areas to achieve global conservation goals. The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act No. 10 of 2004) requires monitoring at organizational level by South African National Parks (SANParks) and the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act requires that the management authorities conduct research and monitoring to ensure the survival of species and ecological systems of national parks. SANParks is thus obligated to monitor and report on its progress towards conservation targets. To-date SANParks has achieved some of the highest conservation scores in the country. SANParks estate is divided into five regions; Savannah, Arid, Cape, Garden Route and Frontier. The Arid Cluster consists of Augrabies, Mokala, Kgalagadi, Namaqua and |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier National Parks. Across the Arid Cluster monitoring and research is taking place as part of the SANParks adaptive management strategy. This presentation will give an overview of the current status of conservation goals within SANParks and an overview of future protected area goals from the World Parks Congress 2014.  It will also focus on what the Arid Parks need to look at to achieve conservation target such as expansion of marine protected areas, disease, herbivory in an arid environment, rehabilitation and fresh water usage.

Dr. Igshaan Samuels

Igshaan Samuels is a rangeland ecologist working for the Agricultural Research Council- Animal Production Institute and is based at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town. Since 2003, he has been working in communal rangelands in semi-arid regions of South Africa where he investigated livestock management under drought conditions. His research showed how communal farmers adapt their herding strategies and grazing patterns during drought conditions in relation to resource availability and livestock condition. He showed that farmers use their indigenous technical knowledge of climate and their local environment and their sophisticated livestock management skills to improve herd survival during droughts.  Dr Samuels also investigated the effect of spatial constraints on the mobility of communal livestock in a semi-arid ecosystem. He studied the legislation and its underlying theories which has led to the current condition of communal farmers in the Northern Cape province and showed that these theories are not in accordance with the objectives of communal farmers or scientific evidence. He also studied the drivers of change in livestock management and the spatial use of variable ecosystems and show that socio-economic factors (incl. social networks) and indigenous knowledge play important roles in communal rangeland dynamics and should be part of any management decisions regarding the future management of communal rangelands. An integrated land use management plan for the communal area, which was accepted by the local municipalitywas produced through this research. Currently, Igshaan is also part of a research team from Namibia and South Africa assessing livestock farmers’ understanding and adaptations to climate change in the region.