UPDATE from Driekuilen Nature Reserve

15 Jun 2018 - 08:00

In April 2018, PhD student Justin van Blerk together with his supervisor A/Prof Adam West (Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT)) and co-supervisor Prof Timm Hoffman visited his study site to conduct the winter component of the long-term rainfall seasonality experiment at Driekuilen Nature Reserve.

The long-term altered rainfall seasonality experiment at the reserve had just entered its second winter-phase of the experiment. The winter component of the experiment has control plots receiving natural winter rainfall while treatment plots have 50% of their rainfall removed and stored for irrigations next summer. The total treatment effect is a switch from winter rain to aseasonal rain.

This research experiment aims to understand the effects of altered rainfall seasonality on post-fire Fynbos and Renosterveld regeneration. The project is supervised by A/Prof Adam West and is managed by his PhD student, Justin van Blerk. This research forms part of a focussed effort to better understand seasonality in the Cape Floristic Region.

Earlier this year Justin van Blerk and Prof Timm Hoffman completed the 4th demographic survey for the experiment, where thousands of seedlings and resprouters were recounted and measured in each plot. These surveys will continue to be carried out twice a year, the next survey will be conducted after the winter of 2018. The research team has recently joined forces with the Department of Statistical Sciences at UCT where two honours students, supervised by A/Prof Res Altwegg, will work on creating a state-space model based on the demographic dataset. This will allow for a complex understanding on how plants interact with the environment and each other.

Together with the demographic time-series data, detailed measurements of soil moisture, plant physiological performance and remote sensing are coming together to reveal the key challenges plants face in a Mediterranean climate as well as their potential to respond to potential changes to this climate in the future.

See previous article on a 2016 trip to Driekuilen here.


Top left: A/Prof Adam West playing with his new toys: Multi-spectral imagery of plots is captured using a UAV (drone) and will form an important part of the research. Top right: Prof Timm Hoffman on a particularly cold morning. Snowy mountains in the background aren’t too clear. Below: PhD student, Justin van Blerk measuring photosynthesis.

~ Article and images supplied by Justin van Blerk