Life on land
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Humans are part of the natural world, and healthy, biodiverse ecosystems are essential to sustaining our lives. Yet land degradation, habitat fragmentation and climate change have led to their widespread destruction.

Loss of habitat, together with over-harvesting, invariably leads to a loss of species: as many as one-third of plant species and one-quarter of mammal and bird species in Africa are vulnerable to extinction. Without urgent action, this treasure trove is in danger of being wiped out, threatening the livelihoods, health and well-being of local communities.

UCT researchers are actively involved in a range of initiatives to understand how biodiversity evolved, how species interact with each other and with their environment, how ecosystems and social-ecological systems function, and to track changes in land-cover over time. This knowledge is the basis for effective biodiversity conservation and the sustainable management of ecosystem services.

As competition for shared natural resources intensifies across Africa, so the prevalence of human–wildlife conflict increases across urban and rural landscapes. The transdisciplinary Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild) is dedicated to finding sustainable, cooperative solutions to this conflict by conducting problem-driven research, engaging with key stakeholders to influence policy and practice, and building conservation capacity.

The Plant Conservation Unit takes full advantage of the university’s unique position: on the slopes of Table Mountain, within a World Heritage Site and at the heart of the Cape Floristic Region. It aims to understand plant conservation in the context of landscape change, using a wide range of disciplines including ecology, environmental history, and palaeoecology that integrate stakeholder perspectives and social context.

Founded in 1960, the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology has grown to become the largest centre for ornithological research in the southern hemisphere. Committed to developing a greater understanding of the continent’s biological resources, the institute hosts the National Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Birds as Keys to Biodiversity Conservation and is increasingly undertaking research related to environmental concerns and the exploitation of biological resources.