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- Item3D techniques and fossil identification: An elephant shrew hemi-mandible from the Malapa site.(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2011-11-07) Val, A.; Carlson, K.J; Kibii, J.M.; Steininger, C.; Churms, C.; Kuhn, B.F.; Berger, L.R.Conventional methods for extracting fossilised bones from calcified clastic sediments, using air drills or chemical preparations, can damage specimens to the point of rendering them unidentifiable. As an alternative, we tested an in silico approach that extended preparation and identification possibilities beyond those realisable using physical methods, ultimately proving to be crucial in identifying a fragile fossil. Image data from a matrix-encased hemi-mandible of a micromammal that was collected from the Plio-Pleistocene site of Malapa, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, were acquired using microtomography. From the resultant images, a 3D rendering of the fossil was digitally segmented. Diagnostic morphologies were evaluated on the rendering for comparison with extant comparative specimens, positively identifying the specimen as an elephant shrew (Elephantulus sp.). This specimen is the first positively identified micromammal in the Malapa faunal assemblage. Cutting-edge in silico preparation technology provides a novel tool for identifying fossils without endangering bone integrity, as is commonly risked with physical preparation.
- ItemAberrant apoptotic response of colorectal cancer cells to novel nucleoside analogues.(Public Library of Science., 2015-09-21) Harmse, L.; Dahan-Farkas, N.; Panayides, J.L.; Van Otterlo, W.; Penny, C.Despite the increased understanding of colorectal cancer and the introduction of targeted drug therapy, the metastatic phase of the disease remains refractory to treatment. Since the deregulation of normal apoptosis contributes to the pathogenesis of colorectal cancer, novel nucleoside analogues were synthesized here and evaluated for their ability to induce apoptosis and cause cell death in two colorectal adeno-carcinoma cell lines, Caco-2 and HT-29. Three novel nucleoside analogues assessed here showed cytotoxic activity, as measured by the MTT assay against both cell lines: the IC50 values ranged between 3 and 37 μM, with Caco-2 cells being more sensitive than HT-29 cells. Compared to camptothecin, the positive control, the nucleoside analogues were significantly less toxic to normal unstimulated leukocytes (p>0.05). Moreover, the nucleosides were able to induce apoptosis as measured by an increase in caspase 8 and caspase 3 activity above that of the control. This was additionally supported by data derived from Annexin V-FITC assays. Despite marginal changes to the mitochondrial membrane potential, all three nucleosides caused a significant increase in cytosolic cytochrome c (p>0.05), with a corresponding decrease in mitochondrial cytochrome c. Morphological analysis of both cell lines showed the rapid appearance of vacuoles following exposure to two of the nucleosides, while a third caused cellular detachment, delayed cytoplasmic vacuolisation and nuclear abnormalities. Preliminary investigations, using the autophagic indicator monodansylcadaverine and chloroquine as positive control, showed that two of the nucleosides induced the formation of autophagic vacuoles. In summary, the novel nucleoside analogues showed selective cytotoxicity towards both cancer cell lines and are effective initiators of an unusual apoptotic response, demonstrating their potential to serve as structural scaffolds for more potent analogues.
- ItemAn Acheulean handaxe from Gladysvale Cave site, Gauteng, South Africa.(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2006-03) Hall, G.; Pickering, R.; Lacruz, R.; Hancox, J.; Berger, L.R.; Schmid, P.WE DESCRIBE A SINGLE HANDAXE FROM fossiliferous breccias at Gladysvale Cave, South Africa. The artefact is the only known tool so far discovered during the controlled excavations conducted at this site over the last decade, and was recovered from decalcified sediments near the stratigraphic interface of two breccia units, making it difficult to assign it with confidence to either. The morphology of the handaxe indicates a middle-late Acheulean industry, and preliminary electron spin resonance and palaeomagnetic dating suggest an age of greater than 780 000 years.
- ItemAdhesion and Invasion of Breast and Oesophageal Cancer Cells Are Impeded by Anti-LRP/LR-Specific Antibody IgG1-iS18.(Public Library of Science., 2013-06-18) Khumalo, T.; Reusch, U.; Knackmuss, S.; Little, M.; Veale, R.B.; Weiss, S.F.T.Adhesion and invasion have been identified as the two key components of metastasis. The 37 kDa/67 kDa laminin receptor (LRP/LR) is thought to enhance these two processes thus endorsing the progression of cancer. Here we report on LRP/LR and the metastatic potential of MDA-MB 231 breast and WHCO1 oesophageal cancer cells. Western blot analysis revealed a significant increase in total laminin receptor precursor (LRP) levels of breast and oesophageal cancer cells in comparison to non-invasive MCF-7 breast cancer cells, whereas LRP/LR cell surface levels in both cell lines were not significantly different to those of MCF-7 cells as analysed by flow cytometry. Incubation of breast and oesophageal cancer cells with the anti-LRP/LR specific antibody, IgG1-iS18, resulted in significant reduction in the adhesive potential of WHCO1 and MDA-MB 231 cells by 92% and 16%, respectively. Moreover, invasion was significantly impeded by 98% and 25% for WHCO1 and MDA-MB 231 cells, respectively. Pearson's correlation coefficients proved a positive correlation between total LRP/LR levels and invasive potential as well as between the adhesive and invasive potential of breast and oesophageal cancer cells. Our findings suggest that through interference of the LRP/LR-laminin-1 interaction, anti-LRP/LR specific antibody IgG1-iS18 may act as a possible alternative therapeutic tool for metastatic breast and oesophageal cancer treatment.
- ItemAnalysis of binary multivariate longitudinal data via 2-dimensional orbits: An application to the Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System in South Africa.(Public Library of Science, 2015-04) Visaya, M.V.; Sherwell, D.; Sartorius, B.; Cromieres, F.We analyse demographic longitudinal survey data of South African (SA) and Mozambican (MOZ) rural households from the Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System in South Africa. In particular, we determine whether absolute poverty status (APS) is associated with selected household variables pertaining to socio-economic determination, namely household head age, household size, cumulative death, adults to minor ratio, and influx. For comparative purposes, households are classified according to household head nationality (SA or MOZ) and APS (rich or poor). The longitudinal data of each of the four subpopulations (SA rich, SA poor, MOZ rich, and MOZ poor) is a five-dimensional space defined by binary variables (questions), subjects, and time. We use the orbit method to represent binary multivariate longitudinal data (BMLD) of each household as a two-dimensional orbit and to visualise dynamics and behaviour of the population. At each time step, a point (x, y) from the orbit of a household corresponds to the observation of the household, where x is a binary sequence of responses and y is an ordering of variables. The ordering of variables is dynamically rearranged such that clusters and holes associated to least and frequently changing variables in the state space respectively, are exposed. Analysis of orbits reveals information of change at both individual- and population-level, change patterns in the data, capacity of states in the state space, and density of state transitions in the orbits. Analysis of household orbits of the four subpopulations show association between (i) households headed by older adults and rich households, (ii) large household size and poor households, and (iii) households with more minors than adults and poor households. Our results are compared to other methods of BMLD analysis.
- ItemAnalytical modeling of MHD flow over a permeable rotating disk in the presence of soret and dufour effects: Entropy analysis.(MDPI AG, 2016-04-26) Freidoonimehr, N.; Rashidi, M.M.; Abelman, S.; Lorenzini, G.The main concern of the present article is to study steady magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) flow, heat transfer and entropy generation past a permeable rotating disk using a semi numerical/analytical method named Homotopy Analysis Method (HAM). The results of the present study are compared with numerical quadrature solutions employing a shooting technique with excellent correlation in special cases. The entropy generation equation is derived as a function of velocity, temperature and concentration gradients. Effects of flow physical parameters including magnetic interaction parameter, suction parameter, Prandtl number, Schmidt number, Soret and Dufour number on the fluid velocity, temperature and concentration distributions as well as entropy generation number are analysed and discussed in detail. Results show that increasing the Soret number or decreasing the Dufour number tends to decrease the temperature distribution while the concentration distribution is enhanced. The averaged entropy generation number increases with increasing magnetic interaction parameter, suction parameter, Prandtl number, and Schmidt number.
- ItemAnomalous dimensions of heavy operators from magnon energies(Springer Verlag, 2016-03) de Mello Koch, R.; Tahiridimbisoa, N.H.; Mathwin, C.We study spin chains with boundaries that are dual to open strings suspended between systems of giant gravitons and dual giant gravitons. Motivated by a geometrical interpretation of the central charges of su(2|2), we propose a simple and minimal all loop expression that interpolates between the anomalous dimensions computed in the gauge theory and energies computed in the dual string theory. The discussion makes use of a description in terms of magnons, generalizing results for a single maximal giant graviton. The symmetries of the problem determine the structure of the magnon boundary reflection/scattering matrix up to a phase. We compute a reflection/scattering matrix element at weak coupling and verify that it is consistent with the answer determined by symmetry. We find the reflection/scattering matrix does not satisfy the boundary Yang-Baxter equation so that the boundary condition on the open spin chain spoils integrability. We also explain the interpretation of the double coset ansatz in the magnon language.
- ItemAnthropological contributions to historical ecology: 50 questions, infinite prospects(Public Library of Science, 2017-02) Armstrong, C.G.; Shoemaker, A.C.; McKechnie, I.; Ekblom, A.; Szabó, P.; Lane, P.J.; McAlvay, A.C.; Boles, O.J.; Walshaw, S.; Petek, N.; Gibbons, K.S.; Morales, E.Q.; Anderson, E.N.; Ibragimow, A.; Podruczny, G.; Vamosi, J.C.; Marks-Block, T.; LeCompte, J.K.; Awâsis, S.; Nabess, C.; Sinclair, P.; Crumley, C.L.This paper presents the results of a consensus-driven process identifying 50 priority research questions for historical ecology obtained through crowdsourcing, literature reviews, and in-person workshopping. A deliberative approach was designed to maximize discussion and debate with defined outcomes. Two in-person workshops (in Sweden and Canada) over the course of two years and online discussions were peer facilitated to define specific key questions for historical ecology from anthropological and archaeological perspectives. The aim of this research is to showcase the variety of questions that reflect the broad scope for historical-ecological research trajectories across scientific disciplines. Historical ecology encompasses research concerned with decadal, centennial, and millennial human-environmental interactions, and the consequences that those relationships have in the formation of contemporary landscapes. Six interrelated themes arose from our consensus-building workshop model: (1) climate and environmental change and variability; (2) multi-scalar, multi-disciplinary; (3) biodiversity and community ecology; (4) resource and environmental management and governance; (5) methods and applications; and (6) communication and policy. The 50 questions represented by these themes highlight meaningful trends in historical ecology that distill the field down to three explicit findings. First, historical ecology is fundamentally an applied research program. Second, this program seeks to understand longterm human-environment interactions with a focus on avoiding, mitigating, and reversing adverse ecological effects. Third, historical ecology is part of convergent trends toward transdisciplinary research science, which erodes scientific boundaries between the cultural and natural.
- ItemAnti-LRP/LR specific antibody IgG1-iS18 impedes adhesion and invasion of liver cancer cells.(Public Library of Science., 2014-05-05) Khumalo, T.; Reusch, U.; Knackmuss, S.; Little, M.; Weiss, S.F.T.; Chetty, C.; Da Costa Dias, B.Two key events, namely adhesion and invasion, are pivotal to the occurrence of metastasis. Importantly, the 37 kDa/67 kDa laminin receptor (LRP/LR) has been implicated in enhancing these two events thus facilitating cancer progression. In the current study, the role of LRP/LR in the adhesion and invasion of liver cancer (HUH-7) and leukaemia (K562) cells was investigated. Flow cytometry revealed that the HUH-7 cells displayed significantly higher cell surface LRP/LR levels compared to the poorly-invasive breast cancer (MCF-7) control cells, whilst the K562 cells displayed significantly lower cell surface LRP/LR levels in comparison to the MCF-7 control cells. However, Western blotting and densitometric analysis revealed that all three tumorigenic cell lines did not differ significantly with regards to total LRP/LR levels. Furthermore, treatment of liver cancer cells with anti-LRP/LR specific antibody IgG1-iS18 (0.2 mg/ml) significantly reduced the adhesive potential of cells to laminin-1 and the invasive potential of cells through the ECM-like Matrigel, whilst leukaemia cells showed no significant differences in both instances. Additionally, Pearson's correlation coefficients suggested direct proportionality between cell surface LRP/LR levels and the adhesive and invasive potential of liver cancer and leukaemia cells. These findings suggest the potential use of anti-LRP/LR specific antibody IgG1-iS18 as an alternative therapeutic tool for metastatic liver cancer through impediment of the LRP/LR- laminin-1 interaction.
- ItemApplication of maghemite nanoparticles as sorbents for the removal of Cu(II), Mn(II) and U(VI) ions from aqueous solution in acid mine drainage conditions.(Springer, 2016-06) Etale, A.; Tutu, H.; Drake, D.C.The adsorptive removal of Cu(II), Mn(II) and U(VI) by maghemite nanoparticles (NPs) was investigated under acid mine drainage (AMD) conditions to assess NP potential for remediating AMD-contaminated water. The effects of time, NP and metal concentration, as well as manganese and sulphate ions were quantified at pH 3. Adsorption of all three ions was rapid, and equilibrium was attained in 5 min or less. 56 % of Cu, 53 % of Mn and 49 % of U were adsorbed. In addition, adsorption efficiencies were enhanced by >= 10 % in the presence of manganese and sulphate ions, although Cu sorption was reduced in 1: 2 Cu-to-Mn solutions. Adsorption also increased with pH: 86 % Cu, 62 % Mn and 77 % U were removed from solution at pH 9 and increasing initial metal concentrations. Increasing NP concentrations did not, however, always increase metal removal. Kinetics data were best described by a pseudo-second-order model, implying chemisorption, while isotherm data were better fitted by the Freundlich model. Metal removal by NPs was then tested in AMD-contaminated surface and ground water. Removal efficiencies of up to 46 % for Cu and 54 % for Mn in surface water and 8 % for Cu and 50 % for Mn in ground water were achieved, confirming that maghemite NPs can be applied for the removal of these ions from AMD-contaminated waters. Notably, whereas sulphates may increase adsorption efficiencies, high Mn concentrations in AMD will likely inhibit Cu sorption.
- ItemArchaean zircons in Miocene oceanic hotspot rocks establish ancient continental crust beneath Mauritius(Nature Publishing Group, 2017-01) Ashwal, L.D.; Wiedenbeck, M.; Torsvik, T.H.A fragment of continental crust has been postulated to underlie the young plume-related lavas of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius based on the recovery of Proterozoic zircons from basaltic beach sands. Here we document the first U-Pb zircon ages recovered directly from 5.7 Ma Mauritian trachytic rocks. We identified concordant Archaean xenocrystic zircons ranging in age between 2.5 and 3.0 Ga within a trachyte plug that crosscuts Older Series plume-related basalts of Mauritius. Our results demonstrate the existence of ancient continental crust beneath Mauritius; based on the entire spectrum of U-Pb ages for old Mauritian zircons, we demonstrate that this ancient crust is of central-east Madagascar affinity, which is presently located ∼700 km west of Mauritius. This makes possible a detailed reconstruction of Mauritius and other Mauritian continental fragments, which once formed part of the ancient nucleus of Madagascar and southern India.
- ItemArrested development-A comparative analysis of multilayer corona textures in high-grade metamorphic rocks(European Geosciences Union (EGU), 2017-02) Ogilvie, P.; Gibson, R.L.Coronas, including symplectites, provide vital clues to the presence of arrested reaction and preservation of partial equilibrium in metamorphic and igneous rocks. Compositional zonation across such coronas is common, indicating the persistence of chemical potential gradients and incomplete equilibration. Major controls on corona mineralogy include prevailing pressure (P), temperature (T ) and water activity (aH2O) during formation, reaction duration (t ) single-stage or sequential corona layer growth; reactant bulk compositions (X) and the extent of metasomatic exchange with the surrounding rock; relative diffusion rates for major components; and/or contemporaneous deformation and strain. High-variance local equilibria in a corona and disequilibrium across the corona as a whole preclude the application of conventional thermobarometry when determining P-T conditions of corona formation, and zonation in phase composition across a corona should not be interpreted as a record of discrete P-T conditions during successive layer growth along the P-T path. Rather, the local equilibria between mineral pairs in corona layers more likely reflect compositional partitioning of the corona domain during steadystate growth at constant P and T . Corona formation in pelitic and mafic rocks requires relatively dry, residual bulk rock compositions. Since most melt is lost along the high-T prograde to peak segment of the P-T path, only a small fraction of melt is generally retained in the residual post-peak assemblage. Reduced melt volumes with cooling limit length scales of diffusion to the extent that diffusion-controlled corona growth occurs. On the prograde path, the low melt (or melt-absent) volumes required for diffusion-controlled corona growth are only commonly realized in mafic igneous rocks, owing to their intrinsic anhydrous bulk composition, and in dry, residual pelitic compositions that have lost melt in an earlier metamorphic event. Experimental work characterizing rate-limiting reaction mechanisms and their petrogenetic signatures in increasingly complex, higher-variance systems has facilitated the refinement of chemical fractionation and partial equilibration diffusion models necessary to more fully understand corona development. Through the application of quantitative physical diffusion models of coronas coupled with phase equilibria modelling utilizing calculated chemical potential gradients, it is possible to model the evolution of a corona through P-T-X-t space by continuous, steady-state and/or sequential, episodic reaction mechanisms. Most coronas in granulites form through a combination of these endmember reaction mechanisms, each characterized by distinct textural and chemical potential signatures with very different petrogenetic implications. An understanding of the inherent petrogenetic limitations of a reaction mechanism model is critical if an appropriate interpretation of P-T evolution is to be inferred from a corona. Since corona modelling employing calculated chemical potential gradients assumes nothing about the sequence in which the layers form and is directly constrained by phase compositional variation within a layer, it allows far more nuanced and robust understanding of corona evolution and its implications for the path of a rock in P-T-X space.
- ItemAssessing Global Transcriptome Changes in Response to South African Cassava Mosaic Virus [ZA-99] Infection in Susceptible Arabidopsis thaliana.(Public Library of Science., 2013-06-27) Pierce, E.J.; Rey, M.E.C.In susceptible plant hosts, co-evolution has favoured viral strategies to evade host defenses and utilize resources to their own benefit. The degree of manipulation of host gene expression is dependent on host-virus specificity and certain abiotic factors. In order to gain insight into global transcriptome changes for a geminivirus pathosystem, South African cassava mosaic virus [ZA:99] and Arabidopsis thaliana, 4×44K Agilent microarrays were adopted. After normalization, a log2 fold change filtering of data (p<0.05) identified 1,743 differentially expressed genes in apical leaf tissue. A significant increase in differential gene expression over time correlated with an increase in SACMV accumulation, as virus copies were 5-fold higher at 24 dpi and 6-fold higher at 36 dpi than at 14 dpi. Many altered transcripts were primarily involved in stress and defense responses, phytohormone signalling pathways, cellular transport, cell-cycle regulation, transcription, oxidation-reduction, and other metabolic processes. Only forty-one genes (2.3%) were shown to be continuously expressed across the infection period, indicating that the majority of genes were transient and unique to a particular time point during infection. A significant number of pathogen-responsive genes were suppressed during the late stages of pathogenesis, while during active systemic infection (14 to 24 dpi), there was an increase in up-regulated genes in several GO functional categories. An adaptive response was initiated to divert energy from growth-related processes to defense, leading to disruption of normal biological host processes. Similarities in cell-cycle regulation correlated between SACMV and Cabbage leaf curl virus (CaLCuV), but differences were also evident. Differences in gene expression between the two geminiviruses clearly demonstrated that, while some global transcriptome responses are generally common in plant virus infections, temporal host-specific interactions are required for successful geminivirus infection. To our knowledge this is the first geminivirus microarray study identifying global differentially expressed transcripts at 3 time points.
- ItemAn attempt to estimate the degree of precipitation hardening, with a simple model(Physical Society, 1940) Mott, N.F.; Nabarro, F.R.N.The process of diffusion being assumed to result simply in an interchange of atoms, an estimate is made of the internal strains produced by precipitation. According to the dislocation theory these strains are responsible for the hardness of the material, and so the degree of hardening can be predicted.
- ItemAttenuation of pollution arising from acid mine drainage by a natural wetland on the Witwatersrand(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2017-01) Humphries, M.S.; McCarthy, T.S.; Pillay, L.Wetlands are well known to be efficient at sequestering pollutants from contaminated water. We investigated metal accumulation in the peats of the Klip River, a natural wetland that has received contaminated water from gold mining operations in Johannesburg for over 130 years. Previous work conducted in the downstream portion identified the wetland as an important system for sequestering metals. We focused on the upstream section of the wetland, more proximal to the source of acid mine drainage, to provide a better understanding of the pollutant sources and the role of the wetland in pollutant attenuation. Geochemical and mineralogical analyses of peat cores revealed considerable metal enrichments in the peat ash, particularly in Co, Ni, Zn, Pb, Cu and U. Metal concentrations are typically between 4 to 8 times higher than those previously reported for the downstream, more distal portion of the wetland. The distribution of metal accumulation within the peat profiles suggests that contamination arises from a combination of sources and processes. Elevated concentrations in the shallow peat are attributed to the input of contaminated surface water via tributaries that drain the Central Rand Goldfield, whereas enrichments in the deeper peat suggest significant sub-surface inflow of contaminated water through the underlying dolomitic rocks. Metal immobilisation occurs through a combination of mechanisms, which include the precipitation of gypsum, metal sulfides, Fe-Mn oxyhydroxides and phosphates. Our study highlights the environmental and economic importance of natural wetland systems which have the ability to accumulate large quantities of metals and thus remediate polluted waters.
- ItemAttractive holographic c -functions(Springer, 2014-11-24) Bhattacharyya, Arpan; Haque, S. Shajidul; Jejjala, Vishnu; Nampuri, Suresh; Véliz-Osorio, ÁlvaroUsing the attractor mechanism for extremal solutions in N = 2 gauged supergravity, we construct a c-function that interpolates between the central charges of theories at ultraviolet and infrared conformal fixed points corresponding to anti-de Sitter geometries. The c-function we obtain is couched purely in terms of bulk quantities and connects two different dimensional CFTs at the stable conformal fixed points under the RG flow.
- ItemAvoiding toxic levels of essential minerals: A forgotten factor in deer diet preferences.(Public Library of Science, 2015-01) Ceacero, F.; Landete-Castillejos, T.; Olguín, A.; Miguel, V.; Gallego, L.; Miranda, M.; García, A.; Martínez, A.; Cassinello, J.Ungulates select diets with high energy, protein, and sodium contents. However, it is scarcely known the influence of essential minerals other than Na in diet preferences. Moreover, almost no information is available about the possible influence of toxic levels of essential minerals on avoidance of certain plant species. The aim of this research was to test the relative importance of mineral content of plants in diet selection by red deer (Cervus elaphus) in an annual basis. We determined mineral, protein and ash content in 35 common Mediterranean plant species (the most common ones in the study area). These plant species were previously classified as preferred and non-preferred. We found that deer preferred plants with low contents of Ca, Mg, K, P, S, Cu, Sr and Zn. The model obtained was greatly accurate identifying the preferred plant species (91.3% of correct assignments). After a detailed analysis of these minerals (considering deficiencies and toxicity levels both in preferred and non-preferred plants) we suggest that the avoidance of excessive sulphur in diet (i.e., selection for plants with low sulphur content) seems to override the maximization for other nutrients. Low sulphur content seems to be a forgotten factor with certain relevance for explaining diet selection in deer. Recent studies in livestock support this conclusion, which is highlighted here for the first time in diet selection by a wild large herbivore. Our results suggest that future studies should also take into account the toxicity levels of minerals as potential drivers of preferences.
- ItemBiogeochemical cycles and biodiversity as key drivers of ecosystem services provided by soils.(Copernicus Publications, 2015-11) Smith, P.; Cotrufo, M. F.; Rumpel, C.; Paustian, K.; Kuikman, P.J.; Elliott, J.A.; McDowell, R.; Griffiths, R.I.; Asakawa, S.; Bustamante, M.; House, J.I.; Sobocká, J.; Harper, R.; Pan, G.; West, P.C.; Gerber, J.S.; Clark, J.M.; Adhya, T.; Scholes, R.J.; Scholes, M.C.Soils play a pivotal role in major global biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nutrient, and water), while hosting the largest diversity of organisms on land. Because of this, soils deliver fundamental ecosystem services, and management to change a soil process in support of one ecosystem service can either provide co-benefits to other services or result in trade-offs. In this critical review, we report the state-of-the-art understanding concerning the biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity in soil, and relate these to the provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural ecosystem services which they underpin. We then outline key knowledge gaps and research challenges, before providing recommendations for management activities to support the continued delivery of ecosystem services from soils. We conclude that, although soils are complex, there are still knowledge gaps, and fundamental research is still needed to better understand the relationships between different facets of soils and the array of ecosystem services they underpin, enough is known to implement best practices now. There is a tendency among soil scientists to dwell on the complexity and knowledge gaps rather than to focus on what we do know and how this knowledge can be put to use to improve the delivery of ecosystem services. A significant challenge is to find effective ways to share knowledge with soil managers and policy makers so that best management can be implemented. A key element of this knowledge exchange must be to raise awareness of the ecosystems services underpinned by soils and thus the natural capital they provide. We know enough to start moving in the right direction while we conduct research to fill in our knowledge gaps. The lasting legacy of the International Year of Soils in 2015 should be for soil scientists to work together with policy makers and land managers to put soils at the centre of environmental policy making and land management decisions.
- ItemBiological and geophysical feedbacks with fire in the Earth system(Environmental Research Letters, 2018-03-06) Archibald, S.; Lehmann, C.E.R.; Belcher, C.M.; Bond, W.J.; Bradstock, R.A.Roughly 3% of the Earth's land surface burns annually, representing a critical exchange of energy and matter between the land and atmosphere via combustion. Fires range from slow smouldering peat fires, to low-intensity surface fires, to intense crown fires, depending on vegetation structure, fuel moisture, prevailing climate, and weather conditions. While the links between biogeochemistry, climate and fire are widely studied within Earth system science, these relationships are also mediated by fuels-namely plants and their litter-that are the product of evolutionary and ecological processes. Fire is a powerful selective force and, over their evolutionary history, plants have evolved traits that both tolerate and promote fire numerous times and across diverse clades. Here we outline a conceptual framework of how plant traits determine the flammability of ecosystems and interact with climate and weather to influence fire regimes. We explore how these evolutionary and ecological processes scale to impact biogeochemical and Earth system processes. Finally, we outline several research challenges that, when resolved, will improve our understanding of the role of plant evolution in mediating the fire feedbacks driving Earth system processes. Understanding current patterns of fire and vegetation, as well as patterns of fire over geological time, requires research that incorporates evolutionary biology, ecology, biogeography, and the biogeosciences.
- ItemBiomass increases go under cover: Woody vegetation dynamics in South African rangelands.(Public Library of Science, 2015-05) Mograbi, P.J.; Erasmus, B.F.N.; Witkowski, E.T.F.; Martin, R.E.; Main, R.; Asner, G.P.; Wessels, K.J.; Mathieu, R.; Knapp, D.E.Woody biomass dynamics are an expression of ecosystem function, yet biomass estimates do not provide information on the spatial distribution of woody vegetation within the vertical vegetation subcanopy. We demonstrate the ability of airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) to measure aboveground biomass and subcanopy structure, as an explanatory tool to unravel vegetation dynamics in structurally heterogeneous landscapes. We sampled three communal rangelands in Bushbuckridge, South Africa, utilised by rural communities for fuelwood harvesting. Woody biomass estimates ranged between 9 Mg ha-1 on gabbro geology sites to 27 Mg ha-1 on granitic geology sites. Despite predictions of woodland depletion due to unsustainable fuelwood extraction in previous studies, biomass in all the communal rangelands increased between 2008 and 2012. Annual biomass productivity estimates (10-14% p.a.) were higher than previous estimates of 4% and likely a significant contributor to the previous underestimations of modelled biomass supply. We show that biomass increases are attributable to growth of vegetation <5 m in height, and that, in the high wood extraction rangeland, 79% of the changes in the vertical vegetation subcanopy are gains in the 1-3m height class. The higher the wood extraction pressure on the rangelands, the greater the biomass increases in the low height classes within the subcanopy, likely a strong resprouting response to intensive harvesting. Yet, fuelwood shortages are still occurring, as evidenced by the losses in the tall tree height class in the high extraction rangeland. Loss of large trees and gain in subcanopy shrubs could result in a structurally simple landscape with reduced functional capacity. This research demonstrates that intensive harvesting can, paradoxically, increase biomass and this has implications for the sustainability of ecosystem service provision. The structural implications of biomass increases in communal rangelands could be misinterpreted as woodland recovery in the absence of three-dimensional, subcanopy information.