SARChI Chair University of Venda

The University of Venda based South African Research Chair in Biodiversity and Change in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve is a vibrant hub for biodiversity science, training and conservation application in the Southern African Development Community – a body of established and emerging researchers, postgraduate and postdoctoral candidates. The Research Chair, co-hosted by the Centre for Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch, is funded by the Department of Science and Technology and administered by the National Research Foundation.

Biodiversity conservation

The Biodiversity focus establishes a data depository including a GIS database, hosts an annual biodiversity academy and coordinates projects on conservation ecology of threatened and iconic target ecosystems.

The work of the Biodiversity Value focus includes:

  1. An archival repository for local biodiversity information containing historical and current information, both spatial (GIS) and non-spatial for use by the broader conservation and research community.
  2. Based on a successful model developed by the Centre for Invasion Biology and the University of Cape Town an annual Biodiversity Academy training students from Southern African Development Community countries.
  3. Conservation ecology of threatened and iconic target ecosystems (mistbelt forests, grasslands and wetlands) and species (primates and predators); aquatic ecosystems research building on existing Univen strengths in fish biology, freshwater ecosystem health and historical and ongoing monitoring; monitoring of leopards and other predators in the Soutpansberg and management of conflict between predators and cattle/game farmers.
  4. Investigating and valuing ecosystem services within the VBR and Limpopo including:
    • Valuation of ecosystem services of Limpopo protected areas (PA’s)  in collaboration with Limpopo Economic Development Environment and Tourism (LEDET).
    • Investigation of Integrated Pest Management ecological services to subtropical agriculture in northern Limpopo.
    • Agroecological management solutions for subtropical agro-ecosystems, testing the prediction that complex agro-ecosystems with intact natural ecosystems and predator communities will enhance Integrated Pest Management.
    • Development of a network approach to quantify the benefits of biodiversity to tropical agriculture – trade-offs in ecological services.


  1. Drivers of Biodiversity in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve.

    The Soutpansberg Mountains of northern South Africa run from west to east for some 210 km, ranging in altitude from 200 m to 1748 m (at Mt Lejuma); together with the Blouberg Mountains (which rise to 2050m) and the Makgabeng Plateau they form the core of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve. Rainfall varies from 367 mm […]
  2. Samango monkey conservation

    Distribution, population status and conservation of samango monkeys in Limpopo Province, South Africa.
  3. Rivers and wetlands

    Chair members, Professors Paul Fouche, Irene Barnhoorn and Stefan Foord from the Zoology Department, Dr Jabulani Gumbo from the Hydrology Department in the School of Environmental Sciences and their students and collaborators, made significant contributions towards a better understanding of anthropogenic impacts on the water quality, nutrient status and biodiversity of selected rivers, dams and […]

International partners

University of Swaziland

Local partners

Centre for Invasion Biology, LEDET, Lajuma Research Centre, National Zoological Gardens, Agriculture Research Council, Southern African Macadamia Growers Association,