Mlungele (Mllue) Nsikani
Collecting soil samples

Mllue collecting soil samples under the watchful eye of Acacia saligna plants

Soil for greenhouse

Collecting soil to be used in the greenhouse

Background

I am an ecologist with interests in research that transcends boundaries, be they scalar, within the ecological domain, or between the sciences, art, and culture. This is because the source of environmental problems and solutions rarely exist within the domain of one scale or discipline. In my ‘previous life’ I was heavily involved in ornithology, especially Cape Vultures. I earned a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Forest Resources and Wildlife Management and currently working on attaining a Ph.D. so that I can one day be a grumpy old Professor.

Current research

I currently focus mainly on research in restoration ecology and invasive species ecology with the hope of becoming a “5th generation” restoration ecologist.

Research niche

Invasive acacias alter the soil nutrient composition and transform ecosystems during the invasion period. Management (clearing and restoration) is often required to reduce their negative consequences. However, restoration of historical ecosystems often fails and the negative impacts of invasive acacias persist as legacy effects. The legacy of altered soil nutrient composition (especially nitrogen status) in turn facilitates secondary invasion and/or weedy native species dominance. It is suspected that the soil nutrient composition, secondary invaders and/or weedy native species often found in cleared sites are the causes of restoration failure. My research was then designed to find out the real culprit behind the failure of restoration efforts after clearing invasive acacias using Acacia saligna (Labill.) H.L Wendl. (Fabaceae) invasions in the South African lowland fynbos as a case study.

Research outline

  1. Barriers to ecosystem restoration presented by soil legacy effects of invasive N2-fixing woody plants: implications for ecological restoration (review)
  2. Acacia saligna’s soil legacy effects persist longer than ten years after clearing: Implications for ecological restoration (original research – field experiment)
  3. Re-establishment of native plant species after clearing invasive Acacia saligna: Consequences for ecosystem restoration (original research – greenhouse experiment)
  4. Changes in the vegetation cover, relative species abundance and qualitative functional traits of secondary invaders and weedy native species observed after clearing invasive Acacia saligna in the South African fynbos (original research – field study)
  5. Legacy effects of invasive Acacia saligna influence the germination and establishment of secondary invaders and weedy native species: Implications for ecological restoration (original research – greenhouse experiment)
  6. Competitive interactions between secondary invaders and weedy native species after clearing invasive Acacia saligna: Consequences for ecological restoration (original research – greenhouse experiment)

Publications