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Sustainability of Southern African Ecosystems under Global Change

Science for Management and Policy Interventions

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  • Open Access
  • © 2024

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  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access
  • Provides a synthesis of the research program Science Partnerships for the Adaptation to Complex Earth System Processes
  • Addresses the scientific, social and economic issues related to climate change impacts on southern African ecosystems
  • Written by numerous scientists from Africa and Germany

Part of the book series: Ecological Studies (ECOLSTUD, volume 248)

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About this book

This open access book about the sustainability of marine and terrestrial ecosystems in southern Africa provides a synthesis of the research program Science Partnerships for the Adaptation to Complex Earth System Processes (SPACES II, 2018-2022). It addresses the scientific, social, and economic issues related to climate change, its potential impacts on the various ecosystems, adaptations, and management interventions for enhancing systems resilience in Southern Africa. 

It is written by numerous scientists from African states and Germany and summarizes the latest research findings, which are of great relevance for a better understanding of climate change impacts, adaptations, and vulnerabilities as well as for developing management options and policy options to reduce the associated risks. This is crucial considering that the projected African population increase is exceptional. Furthermore, climate change is assumed to hit southern Africa extremely hard with a significant increase in extreme events and the frequency of severe droughts, heat waves, and flooding. Southern Africa hosts a high variety of ecosystems, which belongs to important biodiversity hotspots for unique flora and fauna. The surrounding oceans form, in turn, a bottle neck within the ocean’s global thermohaline circulation, act as a still poorly understood carbon sink and source and play an important role for fisheries as they are highly productive. Considering these important aspects, the book is an important interdisciplinary contribution to the scientific literature and will find a wide readership.

The book is aimed at students, teachers, and scientists in the fields of terrestrial and marine ecology, environmental, nature and landscape planning, agriculture, environmental and resource management, biodiversity, and nature conservation, as well as scientists and representatives in specialised authorities and associations, nature conservationists, and policy makers of related disciplines.


Table of contents (32 chapters)

  1. Background

  2. Drivers of Climatic Variability and Change in Southern Africa

  3. Science in Support of Ecosystem Management


“One of the key strengths of this book is its interdisciplinary approach, which draws on insights from ecology, climatology, geography, sociology, and economics. … the book is a timely and insightful contribution to the field of environmental studies. By providing a comprehensive analysis of the sustainability challenges facing southern Africa, the book offers valuable guidance for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers working to promote ecological resilience in the region.” (Brian W van Wilgen, African Journal of Range & Forage Science, April 10, 2024)

Editors and Affiliations

  • Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

    Graham P. von Maltitz, Guy F. Midgley

  • South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Cape Town, South Africa

    Jennifer Veitch

  • Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture, Braunschweig, Germany

    Christian Brümmer

  • Tropical Plant Production and Agricultural Systems Modelling (TROPAGS), University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

    Reimund P. Rötter

  • Institute for Geography and Geology, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany

    Finn A. Viehberg

  • CEBra – Centrum für Energietechnologie Brandenburg e.V., Cottbus, Germany

    Maik Veste

About the editors

Dr. Graham P. von Maltitz is a systems ecologist, land degradation and rural development specialist. He has over 30 years of experience in environmental research with a focus on African ecosystems.  Following a 30-year career at the CSIR, he is currently an associate of the School of Climate Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.  He has engaged at the Science-Policy interfaces at both the national and international level. This includes being a coordinating lead author and lead author on the IPBES Land Degradation and Restoration (LDR) and Africa assessments respectively. He is the Africa representative of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Science-Policy Interface (SPI). His research interests focus on sustainable land management in response to global change.  

Prof. Dr. Guy Midgley is Distinguished Professor in Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He has focusedover four decades on applied ecophysiology, population, and ecosystem level approaches to advance understanding of the risks of climate change to the functioning and biodiversity of austral ecosystems, with a particular focus on biodiversity hotspots. Highly cited work includes that on species extinction risk under climate change, the global role of wildfire in controlling ecosystem structure, and the role of past and future CO2 levels on ecosystem structure and function. He was a co-ordinating lead author for the IPCC 4th and 5th and lead author on the 6th assessment report, and for the Global Report of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. He is a recent awardee of the Royal Society Marloth Medal for contributions to science and policy, and a Humboldt Foundation Research Awardee for lifetime contributions to science.

Dr. Jennifer Veitch is a physical oceanographer and numerical modeller at the Marine Offshore Node ofthe South African Environmental Observation Netwok. Her particular area of expertise is the Benguela upwelling system, from the Angola-Benguela Frotal Zone at its northern boundary to the Goodhope Jet at its southern. More generally, she uses models to understand, and provide information on, the interacting roles of ocean and atmosphere at various scales. Presently, she is lead of the Sustainable Ocean Modelling Initiative: a South African Approach (SOMISANA) project whose vision is to provide accurate information about the changing state of the ocean for enhanced societal impact. 

Dr. Christian Brümmer is a research scientist at Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture in Braunschweig, Germany. He leads the working group “Micrometeorological Measurement Techniques” and is the National Focal Point of the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) Germany. He holds a PhD in Biometeorology from University of Freiburg. He has conducted numerous field campaigns in various ecosystems in Europe, North America and Africa to investigate the biosphere-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. His research focusses on the further development of a methodology for continuous observation of reactive nitrogen compounds. He is an Associate Editor of the journal “Atmospheric Measurement Techniques”.

Prof. Dr. Reimund P. Rötter holds the Chair of Tropical Plant Production and Agricultural Systems Modelling (TROPAGS) and is a member of the Center of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use (CBL) at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen. He is an agronomist, agrosystems modeller and agro-ecologist with 30 years' work experience in Europe, Africa and Asia. His research interests lie in understanding and finding solutions for the multi-facetted challenges of achieving food security in a changing climate under increasingly limited resource availability. He is senior editor of the journal “Food Security”, Associate Editor of “Frontiers in Agronomy”, and has been an editor for various books including a Springer book. Reimund has been a lead author for the IPCC, Working Group II.

Prof. Dr. Finn A. Viehberg is a senior research scientist at the University of Greifswald and private lecturer at the University of Cologne. He is engaged in multidisciplinary projects to understand the dynamic succession and interplay in the water-land-ecosystem nexus, in the spotlight of climate change and anthropogenic forcing, on both short and longer timescales. He is a palaeolimnologist, who conducted research in ponds of the Canadian Arctic to South African lagoons and Subantarctic fjords.

Dr. Maik Veste is a senior researcher for environment and sustainability at the CEBra – Centre for Energy Technology Brandenburg e.V. in Cottbus, Germany, and lecturer for plant ecology/ecophysiology at the Institute of Environmental Science of BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg. He studied biology at the Westfälische Wilhelms-University of Münster and received his PhD in Plant Ecophysiology from the University of Hohenheim. He has more than 30 years of work experiments in applied ecology and conducted various long-term ecological research expeditions in the drylands of South Africa, Namibia, Israel, and northern Africa. His research fields include ecophysiology, soil-plant ecology, plant biogeochemistry, biological soil crusts and plant-climate interactions at various scales to understand the functions of vegetation in the biogeosphere. He is the editor of various Springer books.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Sustainability of Southern African Ecosystems under Global Change

  • Book Subtitle: Science for Management and Policy Interventions

  • Editors: Graham P. von Maltitz, Guy F. Midgley, Jennifer Veitch, Christian Brümmer, Reimund P. Rötter, Finn A. Viehberg, Maik Veste

  • Series Title: Ecological Studies

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Springer Cham

  • eBook Packages: Biomedical and Life Sciences, Biomedical and Life Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2024

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-10947-8Published: 06 January 2024

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-10950-8Published: 06 January 2024

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-10948-5Published: 05 January 2024

  • Series ISSN: 0070-8356

  • Series E-ISSN: 2196-971X

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XXXV, 973

  • Number of Illustrations: 16 b/w illustrations, 281 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Ecosystems, Ecology, Conservation Biology/Ecology, Environmental Management, Sustainable Development

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