Prof Timm Hoffman gives inaugural presentation to the Royal Society of South Africa

18 Mar 2021 - 10:00

PCU Director, Prof Timm Hoffman, was inaugurated as a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa in 2020. He gave a presentation about the Karoo to the Royal Society of South Africa on 17 March 2021. You can watch the 45 minute presentation here.



An abstract of the talk and a brief bio are included below.

Dynamic desert: land use and environmental change in the Karoo 


Even though only 2% of South Africa’s population live in the arid and semi-arid Karoo it covers more than a third of the total area of the country and plays an important part in the economy and development of the state. While it is often considered a relatively boring, unimportant part of the country, significant and far-reaching changes in land use have taken place in the Karoo especially around agriculture, conservation, renewable energy, mining and astronomy. Serious concerns about the effect of some of these developments on the social and natural environments of the Karoo have been raised while the future impact of climate change on the region is expected to be devastating. This talk highlights the dynamic nature of land use change in the Karoo over the last century and the impact, both positive and negative, that each sector has had or could still have on the region. Our views of these impacts have also changed over time as new information has become available. A key question to ask, however, is whether the Karoo is in better environmental health today than it was 100 years ago? Also, what are some of the major threats which lie ahead for the region?  

About the speaker

Timm Hoffman holds the Leslie Hill Chair in Plant Conservation in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. After completing his PhD at UCT in 1989 he spent a post-doc at the Jornada Long Term Ecological Research program in New Mexico, USA before joining the South African National Biodiversity Institute in 1991. He led a national review of land degradation in South Africa which was published as a co-authored book in 2000. He has been at UCT since 2001 where he is the Director of the Plant Conservation Unit. Timm is interested in how southern African environments have changed over time primarily in response to land use and climate. He has a special interest in the arid parts of southern Africa and uses repeat photography to understand the nature, extent and rate of long-term vegetation change in the region. He takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental change and includes elements from the historical, anthropological and social sciences in his research. In recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of his contributions, especially in the communal areas of Namaqualand, Timm was the recipient of the WWF Living Planet Award in 2020 and the SAAB Silver Medal in 2021. Further details about his research and teaching interests can be found here.