How barcoding is helping South Africa track its precious pollinators

Posted by on May 20, 2018 in Our Environment | 0 comments

How barcoding is helping South Africa track its precious pollinators

 Authors Dirk Swanevelder Senior Researcher, ARC Biotechnology Platform, The Agricultural Research Council Annemarie Gous PhD in Conservation Genetics, The Agricultural Research Council Connal D. Eardley, Specialist Scientist Plant Protection Research Institute Agricultural Research Council, South Africa, The Agricultural Research Council Sandi Willows-Munro Researcher and Lecturer Genetics, University of KwaZulu-Natal Disclosure statement Dirk Swanevelder receives funding from the Agricultural Research Council. Annemarie Gous was also funded by the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation Professional Development Programme (grant 99781), the Biotechnology Platform at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), as well as the Professional Development Programme of the ARC Connal D. Eardley, receives funding from the NRF, ARC, DST & Belgian Directorate–General for Development Cooperation, partim GTI, Sandi Willows-Munro receives funding from National Research Foundation. Partners University of Kwa-Zulu Natal provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA. The Conversation is funded by Barclays Africa and seven universities, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Rhodes University and the Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pretoria, and South Africa. It is hosted by the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Western Cape, the African Population and Health Research Centre and the Nigerian Academy of Science. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a Strategic Partner. more Republish this articleRepublish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. The well-being of pollinators like bees have a direct impact on our lives. Vida van der Walt Pollinators are the unsung heroes of food production. Almost one third of the food eaten comes from animal pollination. Animal pollinated foods also contain nutrients and minerals essential to human diets and they maintain natural areas by pollinating wild plants. But understanding the relationship between plants and pollinators isn’t straightforward. Nevertheless, it matters because some indigenous pollinators are under threat. This is particularly challenging in South Africa which has a rich collection of indigenous pollinators. The list includes bees, predacious wasps, pollen wasps, beetles, moths and birds. This huge diversity makes it even more difficult to study plant interactions with pollinators purely through observation. In the last couple of years, DNA-based techniques like next generation sequencing have been increasingly used to identify pollen on pollinators and their products, like honey. The technology reads the DNA from a mixed pollen sample and then compares the DNA to a reference database to obtain identifications. The short, specific DNA fragments targeted from the pollen sample are used as “barcodes” to identify the plant species from which it originated. Using a standard set of genes, combined with next generation sequencing, to identify plant species from their pollen is referred to as metabarcoding. Pollen metabarcoding has led to huge strides in understanding the relationship between pollinators and plants. And there’s an ongoing project to barcode the plants of southern Africa, using genes in the chloroplasts of plants. This is undoubtedly good news for the metabarcoding of mixed pollen samples to study plant-pollen interactions. In our recent review, we discussed the field of plant-pollinator interactions and the impact and study of these relationships, focusing on South Africa. It highlights the advances made by South African scientists using cutting edge molecular technologies like pollen metabarcoding. This work has the potential to shed new light on the complexity of pollination in South Africa’s ecosystems – in both the natural as well as agricultural ecosystems. Why it’s complicated...

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South Africa in Bloom – 42 years at the Chelsea Flower Show

Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Events | 0 comments

South Africa in Bloom – 42 years at the Chelsea Flower Show

Mar 16, 2018 In the 42 years that SANBI-Kirstenbosch has been exhibiting – and winning medals – at the Chelsea Flower Show, the range of flora that has been showcased is a testament to the incredible floral wealth of our country. With its theme Windows on Biodiversity, our circular exhibit with its stunning backdrop of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is a rich and varied voyage of discovery. On display are plants from all ten of South Africa’s National Botanical Gardens: Free State, Hantam, Harold Porter, Karoo Desert, Kirstenbosch, Kwelera, Lowveld, KwaZulu-Natal, Pretoria and Walter Sisulu. “The richness of our biodiversity is one of South Africa’s greatest natural assets,” said Dr Tanya Abrahamse, SANBI CEO. “South Africa is home to nearly 10% of the world’s plants and contains three regions that have been declared global biodiversity hotspots, so it is fitting that we celebrate this heritage this year at Chelsea.” Designed by the award-winning team David Davidson and Raymond Hudson, the exhibit will provide a glimpse of all nine of South Africa’s biomes to the over 150 000 people who are expected to visit the Chelsea Flower Show. As always, the success of the stand depends on the enthusiastic team of volunteers who join the designers and SANBI representatives in ensuring that our display is perfect in every way. This year the SANBI team will include Lihle Dlamini, Lufuno Nenungwi, Mashudu Nndanduleni and Felicity Poole New team keeps Kirstenbosch blooming NEWS / 19 APRIL 2018, 10:09AM / DOMINIC ADRIAANSE The exhibit for the 2018 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show is on display at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. 
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show will take place in London this month. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA) The end of an era was celebrated at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, as its multiple award-winning design team of David Davidson and Ray Hudson handed over the baton to a new team of creatives.The duo had an unprecedented 24-year run creating the annual Kirstenbosch-South Africa exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show. Leon Kluge and his incoming team will exhibit their design at the flower show this month. Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new...

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Cycads: The rhinos of the plant world

Posted by on May 16, 2018 in Our Environment | 0 comments

Cycads: The rhinos of the plant world

John Yeld | 15 May 2018 John Yeld says this particular poaching crisis has been largely playing out below the radar of public awareness EXREMELY harsh penalties are being handed down to convicted wildlife poachers these days, so what’s an appropriate sentence for someone who has pleaded guilty to illegally possessing 38 items from a group of living organisms far more critically endangered than rhinos or pangolins? That’s a question a Pretoria regional court magistrate will be pondering this week as prosecutors, arguing in aggravation of sentence, call experts to testify about the extreme conservation value of these organisms: cycad plants (Encephalartos species). Some local cycad species have already been poached out of existence in the wild while others have been reduced to literally a handful. For example, armed guards now protect Encephalartos dyerianus, the critically endangered blue cycad that is clinging to life in the wild on a single small granite hill, less than 10 hectares in extent, in Limpopo province. The cycad family is the oldest complex life form still in existence anywhere on Earth, with a lineage stretching back an incredible 340 million years and predating the dinosaurs. In fact, cycads have been around so long that they’ve survived three of the five great mass extinction events, including the End Permian extinction of 251 million years ago that is known as “the great dying” and nearly ended life on Earth when 96% of all species went extinct. “This is a crazy group of plants that are ‘the elders’ of biodiversity and of the plant world. They are weird, amazing, strange, fascinating,” says cycad expert Professor John Donaldson, Chief Director: Biodiversity Research, Assessment and Monitoring at SANBI (SA National Biodiversity Institute) and the Harold Pearson Professor of Botany at the University of Cape Town. Today, there are still 350-odd cycad species in three genera world-wide, and South Africa has a disproportionate share with 37 Encephalartos species in two genera that also account for more than half of the known cycad species in Africa. Three quarters of our 37 species are endemic, meaning they occur naturally only here and nowhere else on Earth. Twelve are “Critically Endangered”, while four are “Endangered” and another four are already considered “Extinct in the Wild”. Two species are believed to have gone extinct in just seven years during the past decade, between 2003 and 2010, and for seven of the critically endangered species there are fewer than 100 plants of each left in the wild – far fewer than rhinos. Donaldson, who has co-chaired the SSC (Species Survival Commission) Cycad Specialist Group of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) since 1997, warns that cycads everywhere are facing major threats – so much so that they are second only to the sturgeon fish family for the dubious title of the world’s most threatened group of living organisms. Massive cycad poaching is taking place world-wide and particularly in South Africa, resulting in a biodiversity crisis that eclipses the tragedy of rhino poaching and other illegal wildlife trade. Unfortunately, this crisis has been largely playing out below the radar of public awareness, outrage and concern. Like other wildlife poaching, it’s human greed that is the major reason for these cycads’ precarious hold on life. Because of their rarity and attractiveness as landscape elements...

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Upcoming events in the Western Cape.

Posted by on May 10, 2018 in Events | 0 comments

Upcoming events in the Western Cape.

Businesses, services, vacancies, events, Open Gardens, workshops, specialists, products, training. Welcome to the Autumn edition of our newsletter. As always, there are some special events coming up – for more information please go to the EVENTS section on our website. You can choose to see what’s going on in your specific area or everything country-wide. Here are only a few of the interesting events – not be missed! Autumn events (Western Cape). The National Chrysanthemum Show will be held at Pniel, between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek this year. Date and details online.And the lovely Keurbos Nursery (Elgin) will have their Autumn Open Dayon 12th May. There will be plants for sale with some special offers – and also stalls from Fresh Woods, Toos van den Berg and Jim Holmes. Vineyard Walks and Talks. The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town has again started its popular (and regular) Walks and Talks for the year. The next one will take place on the 16th of May – a guided tour around their gardens with horticulturalist Bruce Nutman.See here for more information – and dates for the walks for the rest of the year. Orchid Open Day On the 26 of May 2018 there will be a beautiful Orchid open day at Plantae Orchids.  Come & enjoy the peace & quiet of the bushveld. Plantea is a nursery that is dedicated to growing orchid & other rare, unusual plants. Click here to view the event and more details. (North West)Zululand Orchid Society is also holding their annual show on 19th and 20th May. (Richards Bay, KZN). Rare Plant Fair. Many people have been asking – but the popular Rare Plant Fair will now be a spring highlight for plant lovers. It will take place at the Tokara Estate on the Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch on 20th October 2018. Tour to visit the Wildflowers of the Northern Cape 1st – 5th September 2018.A guided Spring flower tour, with transport, from Cape Town, visiting the Postberg Flower Reserve, Langebaan, Clanwilliam, and on to Nieuwoudtville. This tour is led by a experienced travel company and you’ll get to gather some Rooibos Tea, hopefully see plenty of incredible wildflowers and stay on the De Lande Farm – part of the well-known Papkuilsfontein farm. Click here to view the event and more details. Vacancies There are some interesting positions in the Western Cape open for people who have horticultural experience.Brushcutter operator – Trees SA is looking for a Brushcutter Operator. Experience and qualifications are needed. If you also have vacancies at your company please let us know. If you are horticulturally qualified and are looking for a job, please add your details to our website. Follow this link here. It’s free! The rescue and relocation of the ‘elephant tree’. Six years ago in 2012, Trees-SA rescued a huge stinkwood tree from almost certain death from a housing development – it was lifted and brought back to their nursery for care and attention. Then, recently it was finally moved (with a 75 tonner crane truck!) and replanted in its new home. The giant planting hole prepared, bag was cut, and the root ball securely planted and the tree staked to protect against the winter winds.  The rescued ‘elephant’ is still a patient and will receive continued care and attention from the staff at Trees-SA until it established itself and becomes independent. Go to their contact details or to read the full story click here. Advertising special. Does your company sell specialist plants? We’d love to...

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