Brian W. van Wilgen

Background

I have a basic degree in forestry from Stellenbosch University, with post-graduate qualifications (MSc, PhD and DSc) in applied ecology (see research interests). I spent 15 years working as a research officer in the Department of Forestry, and 25 years as an applied ecologist in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). I joined Stellenbosch University as an employee in April 2014. After obtaining my PhD from the University of Cape Town in 1985, I became program coordinator for a large interdisciplinary ecological study of the effects of fire on fynbos at the Jonkershoek Research Centre (1985 1990). Between 1992 and 1994, I acted as lead author of a large multi-disciplinary environmental impact assessment of proposed dune mining in the St Lucia area. Between 1996 and 2004, I was first Program Manager of, then Scientific Advisor to the Working for Water programme. In 2005, I became a core team member of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology. I currently serve as an associate editor of the South African Journal of Science, and Fire Ecology, and am Regional Editor for Africa for Conservation Biology.

Research interests

My research focusses on a number of related main fields under the broad umbrella of terrestrial ecology.

The ecological effects of vegetation fires and the use of fire in ecosystem management.

My early research concentrated on the ecological effects of fire in fynbos shrublands, but expanded to include other ecosystems (notably savannas and grasslands) and other aspects, including fire behaviour, fire danger rating, using fire as a management tool, and the role of vegetation fires in the dynamic chemistry of the atmosphere.

The ecology and management of invasive alien plants.

In this field, my research interests include the quantification of the impacts of invasive alien plants on ecosystems, and finding effective ways of controlling invasions.

The conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem services.

I focus on the development of policy and science-based management approaches that would conserve biological diversity, and of services that arise from healthy ecosystems, and how these can be accurately valued.

The adaptive management of ecosystems.

I have developed adaptive systems for fire management in savanna protected areas, and have broadened these to other protected areas.

Publications

Selected recent examples