Agriculture is the predominant land-use across the planet. So, the future of biodiversity depends on whether plants and animals can live alongside farming activities.
Ecological refuges are safe-havens for plants and animals from the effects of land-use and climate change. In partnership with Bram Vanschoenwinkel of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels and Carina Pienaar of BirdLife SA, I explored whether rocky outcrops are ecological refuges in central South Africa.
We found that mountians and outcrops are important keystone habitats for butterfly species in this landscape. Butterflies were able to retreat to these habitats during periods of drought, and then recolonise the landscape once conditions improved.
I carried out a camera-trap study to explore how mammals used habitat after the removal of livestock. Results showed that mammal species richness in abandonded farmland was comparable to adjacent protected areas. Moreover, species have not adjusted their daily behavioural patterns in response to the closer proximity to humans. Combined, this shows how mammal species can potentially recolonise farmland that is managed using more biodivesity-friendly methods.