Special Reports

Stopping invaders from taking over

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The DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology provides the scientific knowledge to reduce the rate and impacts of biological invasions.

An intern at the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at work in the field. (CIB)

The DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) was established in 2004 to provide the scientific knowledge required to reduce the rate and impacts of biological invasions and to improve the quality of life of all South Africans.

To date, the centre of excellence has trained over 130 postgraduate students who are now located in government and non-government agencies, consultancies and universities in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australasia and America. Its award-winning Iimbovane Outreach Project, which was undertaken in collaboration with the Western Cape education department, has introduced 8 900 grade 10 and 11 learners to biodiversity science and has trained 210 teachers in Western Cape secondary schools (www.sun.ac.za/Iimbovane).

The CIB is a network of researchers and students in the natural and social sciences, with headquarters at Stellenbosch University and a hub at the University of Pretoria.

CIB nodes are located at the universities of Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal, Venda and Johannesburg as well as at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South African National Parks and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

The CIB works to understand the spread of organisms (plants, animals or pathogens) in areas where they do not naturally ocuur.

The CIB does research, student training, networking, outreach and service provision and supports 50 to 60 postgraduate students at universities throughout South Africa every year through financial, academic and infrastructural support.

Its collaborative projects with Working for Water and SANBI have enabled it to expand beyond its core funding from the DST-NRF. The CIB works to understand the spread of organisms (plants, animals or pathogens) in areas where they do not naturally occur.

Biological invasions have been found to be the second greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide and can have serious impacts on the goods and services that ecosystems provide to humans by, for instance, transforming habitats and reducing water flow in streams and rivers.

Invasive alien species have vast and growing impacts on South African ecosystems, with direct financial costs and effects on human health and livelihoods. Poor rural communities often bear the heaviest costs of biological invasions.

Some of the CIB's achievements to date include: • Working with government to guide national legislation and policy (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act for the department of environmental affairs); • Research to inform the integrated management of invasive species (Working for Water); • Advising on and improving the conservation of Antarctica and sub-Antarctic islands; • Providing scientific support for invasive species management in national parks; and • Developing indicators of biological invasions for global implementation (Convention on Biological Diversity & Global Invasive Species Programme)

For more information visit www.sun.ac.za/cib or contact Sarah Davies [email protected]

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