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Associate Professor Edmund February

Phone: 021 650 3712 
Room No.: 3.01 (HW Pearson Building)






My main interests are in obtaining a better understanding of where plants get their resources and how this affects vegetation structure. In this regard I am particularly interested in the processes that define the boundaries between different vegetation types. I am also interested in the anthropogenic effect on the environment as I believe that people have affected the environment for many thousands of years.






The focus of my research is in two systems, savannas and winter rainfall shrublands. My two main research areas are in the savannas of the Kruger National Park and the winter rainfall shrublands of the Cedarberg and Cape Peninsula. I believe that my research within these reserves should be aligned with the interests and questions identified by reserve management and should inform the management of reserves.



Outside of my research my interests are in Mountains and Mountaineering specialising in high-grade rock-climbing. I have been on a number of climbing expeditions to Australia, America, Britain, Cameroon, France, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. I enjoy making mountaineering videos and in this respect have worked on a number focusing on the mountains of Africa. I have also worked closely with the Table Mountain National Park in popularizing the Park.


Web resources related to my research

How Do Trees and Grass Live Together in the Landscapes of Kruger.
Fire, resprouting and variability: a recipe for grass-tree coexistence in savanna.


Current research students



Leila Mitrani Recruitment and Establishment Ecology of Widdringtonia whytei and Widdringtonia cedarbergensis.

Eleanor Shadwell Impacts of water extraction and giraffe on two keystone species of the Kgalagadi National Park.

Wade Lane Would additional nitrogen, phosphorus and water to a savanna ecosystem cause enough change in the vegetation to cause a change in feeding behaviour and diet of local ungulate populations?

Some Relevant Publications:

West A.G., Dawson T.E., February E.C., Midgley G.F., Bond W.J. and Aston T.L. (2012) Diverse functional responses to drought in a mediterranean-type shrubland in South Africa.

February E.C., Cook G.D., and Richards A.E. (2012) Root dynamics influence tree-grass coexistence in an Australian savanna. Austral Ecology.

Matimati I.; F Musil C.F., February E.C., Raitt, L, (2012) Diurnal stem diameter variations show CAM and C3 photosynthetic modes and CAM -C3 switches in arid South African succulent shrubs. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

Verweij R.J., Higgins S. I., Bond W.J. and February E.C. (2011) Water sourcing by trees in a mesic savanna: responses to severing deep and shallow roots. Journal of Experimental Botany 74, 229-36.

Higgins S.I., Delgado-Cartay M.D. February E.C. and Combrink H.J. (2011) Is there a temporal niche separation in the leaf phenology of savanna trees and grasses? Journal of Biogeography 38, 2165–2175

Staver, A. C., Bond, W. J. & February, E. C. 2011 History matters: tree establishment variability and species turnover in an African savanna. Ecosphere, 2, art49.

Kulmatiski, A., Beard, K.H., Verweij, R.J.T., and February E.C. 2010. A depth-controlled tracer technique measures vertical, horizontal and temporal patterns of water use by trees and grasses in a subtropical savanna. New Phytologist 188: 199–209.

Schactschneider, K. and February E.C. 2010. The relationship between fog, floods, groundwater and tree growth along the lower Kuiseb River in the hyperarid Namib. Journal of Arid Environments, 74, 1632-1637.

Coetsee, C., Bond, W. J. & February, E. C. 2010 Frequent fire affects soil nitrogen and carbon in an African savanna by changing woody cover. Oecologia, 162, 1027-1034.

February, E. & Higgins, S. I. 2010 The distribution of tree and grass roots in savannas in relation to soil nitrogen and water. South African Journal of Botany, 76, 517-523.

Coetsee C., February E.C. and Bond W.J. (2008) Nitrogen availability is not affected by frequent fire in a South African savanna. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 24, 1-8.

Palmer, A. R., Fuentes, S., Taylor, D., Macinnis-Ng, C., Zeppel, M., Yunusa, I., February, E. and Eamus, D. (2008) The use of pre-dawn leaf water potential and MODIS LAI to explore seasonal trends in the phenology of Australian and southern African woodlands and savannas. Australian Journal of Botany, 56, 557-563.

February, E. C., Higgins, S. I., Newton, R. & West, A. G. 2007. Tree distribution on a steep environmental gradient in an arid savanna. Journal of Biogeography 34, 270-278.

Hempson G. P., February E. C. and Verboom G.A. 2007. Determinants of savanna vegetation structure: Insights from colophospermum mopane. Austral Ecology 32, 429-435.

February, E. C., West, A. G. and Newton, R. 2007. The relationship between water source, rainfall and growth for an endangered tree. Austral ecology 32, 397-402.

Higgins S, Bond W.J, February E, Bronn A, Euston-Brown D.I.W, Enslin B, Govender N, Rademan L.K, O'Reagan S, Potgieter A, Scheiter S, Sowry R, Trollope L and Trollope W.S.W. 2007. Effects of four decades of fire manipulation on woody vegetation structure in savanna. Ecology.

February E.C., Mader A.D. and Bond W.J. 2006. Age determination of two South African Acacia species using ring counts and radiocarbon dating. African Journal of Ecology 44, 417-419.

Sankaran, M., Hanan, N. P., Scholes, R. J., Ratnam, J., Augustine, D. J., Cade, B. S., Gignoux, J., Higgins, S. I., Le Roux, X., Ludwig, F., Ardo, J., Banyikwa, F., Bronn, A., Bucini, G., Caylor, K. K., Coughenour, M. B., Diouf, A., Ekaya, W., Feral, C. J., February, E. C., Frost, P.G. H., Hiernaux, P., Hrabar, H., Metzger, K.L., Prins, H. H. T., Ringrose, S., Sea, W., Tews, J., Worden, J. & Zambatis, N. 2005 Determinants of woody cover in African savannas. Nature 438, 846-849.

February E.C., Bond W., Taylor R., and Newton R. 2004 Will water abstraction from the Table Mountain Aquifer threaten endemic species? A case study at Cape Point, Cape Town. South African Journal of Science 100:253-255.

Swanborough P.W., Lamont B.B. and February E.C. 2003 δ13C and water-use efficiency in Australian grasstrees and South African conifers over the last century. Oecologia 136:205-212.