Professor Peter Scogings with the newly-published book: Savanna Woody Plants and Large Herbivores.

Academic’s Contribution to New Book Enhances Understanding of Global Savanna Systems

The publication of a book titled Savanna Woody Plants and Large Herbivores is the culmination of years’ of work by Professor Peter Scogings of the School of Life Sciences, who was one of the editors of the work.

The book deals with the interactions between woody plants and browsing mammals in global savannas and discusses contemporary savanna management models and applications.

Throughout the 21 chapters the focus is primarily on the C4 grassy ecosystems with woody components that constitute the majority of global savannas. Savannas occur in tropical and sub-tropical climates as well as the warm, temperate regions of North America.

The comprehensive publication covers a range of topics, including the varying behaviour of browsing mammals, the response to browsing by woody species, and the factors that inhibit forage intake. Contributions came from active researchers and experts all over the world, and in the book they compare and contrast different savanna ecosystems, offering a global perspective on savanna functioning, the roles of soil and climate in resource availability and organism interaction, and the possible impacts of climate change across global savannas.

‘This book represents a valuable contribution to current research, and provides new insights on this research and on recent developments in understanding global savanna systems,’ said Scogings.

Scogings explained that the book’s content filled a gap in literature on savanna management issues, including biodiversity conservation and animal production, and applies concepts developed in other biomes to future savanna research.

Scogings and his collaborators structured the publication to complement contemporary books on savanna or large herbivore ecology with the focus on the woody component of savanna ecosystems and large herbivore interactions in savannas. Tree-mammal systems of savannas and other eco-systems of temperate and boreal regions are compared, and the work provides numerous case studies of plant-mammal interactions from various savanna ecosystems.

The book will be of relevance to those working in ecology, wildlife and conservation biology, natural resource management, and environmental science, among other fields.

Scogings has been at UKZN since 2015 and it was during that year that he also began work on this publication with his collaborators, bringing to reality an idea conceived almost 20 years ago. Through his attendance at the annual Savanna Science Network meetings, Scogings was able to discuss the idea with many of the world’s top savannah ecologists and elicited their eager co-operation on the publication.

Scogings, who holds a C-rating from the National Research Foundation and is Associate Professor of Terrestrial Ecology, was the Academic Leader of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology on the Westville campus in 2015 and on the Pietermaritzburg campus until the end of 2018.

This publication is an exploration of the areas of expertise he has dedicated his career to, including plant-herbivore interactions, secondary metabolites, savanna ecology, and rangeland management.

He completed his undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology and Geology at the former University of Natal (now UKZN) and went on to achieve his Masters in Wildlife Management from the University of Pretoria and a doctorate in Pasture Science from the University of Fort Hare. He spent 13 years at the University of Fort Hare and 12 years at the University of Zululand before joining UKZN.

Words: Christine Cuenod

Photograph: Supplied