Invitation to a public lecture on Beyond the forest edge: understanding open ecosystems

It is with regret that we need to announce the rescheduling of the Royal Society of South Africa Public Lecture by Emeritus Professor William Bond, due to be delivered at the SAAO Auditorium on Wednesday 18 March 2020 at 17h00.

Royal Society of South Africa and the Academy of Science of South Africa invite you to a free Public Lecture entitled Beyond the forest edge: understanding open ecosystems by Emeritus Professor William Bond, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town.


Tropical grassy ecosystems are a major anomaly to the idea that climate determines global vegetation formations. They share climates warm enough and wet enough for forests and often form forest and savanna mosaics. For many years, open ecosystems were interpreted as deforested and degraded products of human settlement or natural systems confined to soils hostile for tree growth. Neither hypothesis explains the vast extent of non-forested (open) ecosystems. Instead consumer control of trees, by fire and herbivores, coupled with feedbacks to soil properties of these alternate biome states, account for most of the climate mis-match. Open ecosystems extend far beyond the tropics accounting for about one third of the world’s vegetated land surface. Tropical studies are leading the way in developing protocols for identifying major controls on global open biome distributions. These studies have important implications for international policies to afforest open ecosystems on a vast scale to reduce global warming. Naïve afforestation could threaten the rich endemic biota of ancient open ecosystems for uncertain climate gains.

About the speaker

William Bond is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. He is fascinated by the processes influencing vegetation change in the past, present and future, including fire, vertebrate herbivory, climate extremes, atmospheric and habitat fragmentation. The systems he has studied include sub-tropical grasslands, savannas and winter rainfall shrublands. William began his career at the University of Exeter where he achieved a BSc Honours degree, followed by his Masters at UCT. He obtained his PhD in 1987 at the University of California. Amongst many roles he was Chief Scientist, South African Environmental Observation Network. William has more than 30 000 citations for his works and was named a Highly Cited Researcher for 2018. He is among an elite global group recognized for exceptional research performance demonstrated by production of multiple highly-cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in Web of Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the USA in 2013. William recently published the book Open Ecosystems: ecology and evolution beyond the forest edge.             

Date:     Wednesday 18 March 2020 

Time:    17h00 (Tea will be served from 16h30)

Place:    South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) Auditorium, Observatory Road, Observatory* 

*Directions to SAAO Auditorium: From the N2, turn off to the M57 – Liesbeek Parkway; turning in the direction of Cape Town and continue until the traffic lights with Hartleyvale (hockey and football) on your left. Turn right at traffic lights into Observatory Road, pass the River Club; the S A Astronomical Observatory is next on the left. Once through the security gates bear left following the SALT signs to the auditorium i.e. last building on the left (white with stoep & ramp).