Sbongiseni is an innovative ecologist with a sound scientific philosophy who believes that his qualifications, dedication and dynamic personality will take him a step closer to his desired career pathway.

He has developed a strong interest in the interaction between species and their environment and believes that there is no better place to continue his academic career than in ecology – he considers it a very rich field in which to develop a future career.

Considering the intense experience and skills combined with the knowledge he has acquired during the completion of his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, he is confident that pursuing a PhD takes him a step closer to his goal of becoming a professional researcher.

What is Sbongiseni’s PhD project about?

At a glance…

The global extent and rapid increase of invasive species pose threat to global biodiversity and is a primary cause of damage to ecosystems. The increasing volumes of global trade, travel and transport has led to a sharp increase of invasive species and accounts for the rapid rate at which they are moving (across borders and shores).

The total number of detailed studies of invasive animals and the overall understanding of invasions in many animal groups has lagged behind that of plants. Even the most prominent hypotheses and theories in invasion ecology were derived from studies of plants. South Africa is a highly diverse country and therefore offers an opportunity for studying both floristic and faunistic biological invasions.

For this project, he aims to model and predict changes in the distributions of selected invasive invertebrate species in South Africa under current and future climates.

Objectives:

1. To provide a systematic review of invasive invertebrate species in South Africa – this review aims to identify terrestrial invasive invertebrate species that have been introduced to South Africa. Specifically, it lists and reports the general information on the introduced invasive species, this includes their invasion status, the region of origin, dates of introduction, distribution, and purpose of the introduction in the country. It further provides vital information which includes preferred habitat, means of movement, and dispersal, and also reports on the risks associated with their occurrences in the country, or elsewhere in the world.

2. To evaluate the role of citizen science as an effective tool for observing and monitoring invasive invertebrates: the case study of iNaturalist in South Africa.

Recent advances in photo-sharing technology and social networking provide new opportunities for improving biodiversity information. In light of many unknown species and undefined distributions, crowdsourced data has become the predominant source of taxonomic identification and new species discovery, despite the limited number of taxonomic specialists available. For this study, we used iNaturalist as a crowdsourced species identification system and organism occurrence recording tool to assess and identify invasive terrestrial invertebrate species, including diversity and distribution, generated through citizen science data for South Africa.

3. To investigate the eight commercial seaports found in South Africa as ports of entry for major alien invasive terrestrial invertebrate species.

Global trade markets and transport network expansion has facilitated the increase of non-indigenous pests in South Africa. While a significant number of alien species have been introduced intentionally as biological control agents, many alien species have been introduced accidentally as contaminants on imported goods like plants or as stowaways on transport vessels such as ships. Plants and plant products in particular, have facilitated the introduction of exotic invertebrates in South Africa as hitchhikers or as contaminants of imported goods. The present study aims to prepare a review of non-native pests of fruit species that have been introduced into South Africa through different points of entry during the last 10–11 years (2009 – 2021).  The specific objectives of the study are: To produce an alert list of pest, their origin and their associated commodities that have been established in South Africa as from the year 2009 till present. To identify countries and products with a high risk profile for a given pest (rank commodities from low to high risk as associated with frequent interceptions of nonindigenous pests) and also to identify which port of entry (i.e. airport, seaport, land border) is associated with the highest pests interception. To identify trends in pest interception rates over time (e.g. which seasons have high pest interceptions)

4. To profile seven invasive invertebrates and evaluates the risk of invasion under climate change by modeling their potential future distribution in light of climate change in South Africa.

Institution: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Project title: Species distribution modelling of selected invasive invertebrates in South Africa

Supervisor: Dr Caswell Munyai

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