GDRI 191: Biodiversity and Global Change in Southern Africa


This GDRI was the result of 10 years of cooperation between France and South Africa in the field of biodiversity research. On 12 May 2005 in Paris, a first workshop established that there was strong motivation among French scientists to federate these different projects in a network to improve effectiveness and visibility. To this end, a decision was taken to create the GDRI «Biodiversity and global change» during a workshop held from 24-27 August 2005 at the NRF (Pretoria). 

More than 60 scientists were involved, from eight French Research Institutions (CNRS, EPHE, INRA, CIRAD) or Universities (Montpellier II, Grenoble I, Paris VI, La RĂ©union) and eight South African institutions including Universities (Wits, Pretoria, Rhodes, Stellenbosch, Kwazulu-Natal and Cape Town), the Transvaal Museum and a governmental institution (SANBI) as well as the University of Zimbabwe.

The GDRI 191 was built on a very diverse base, conceptually and methodologically, and several interesting cross-cutting themes emerged during the last four years. We will develop some of these in the proposed GDRI, through Workshops as well as bilateral exchanges, several examples are:

·      A fundamental aspect of the dynamics of biodiversity lies in the processes of species diversification. By studying present distribution patterns as well as genetic and phenotypic adaptations in several plant and animal case models, we will infer how and when species responded to past climate changes.

·      Understanding the structure of community dynamics requires understanding the processes of species interactions. Using our case studies we will explore how competition, predation, mutualism and pollination shape South African communities. In particular, the role of some ‘ecosystem engineers’ in savanna dynamics will be identified.

·      One of the assets of the GDRI lies in the modelling approaches that will be used to assess and predict the consequences of global and land use changes on the tempo and mode of speciation and extinction, as well as on distributions. Outcomes for conservation issues are expected.

·      Inside each package, the skills of the GDRI give the opportunity to develop comparative analyses or programs in common. As an example, it has been discussed in the worpackage 2 about the opportunity to build a common program concerning the rodent Rhabdomys because complementary but independent approaches (chromosomal, molecular and behavioural studies) are conducted on this species. 

·      A proposition was made to have a day-meeting for all the people from Montpellier involved in the GDRI (whatever their workpackage). This can constitute an interesting and emulating cross-cutting between workpackages that could be apply to other geographic area (such as Cape Town for example). 


Claudine Montgelard (UMR 5175 CNRS, Montpellier) has been the coordinator for the French side and the South African coordinator was initially Jaco Greef (University of Pretoria), and replaced in 2008 by Conrad Matthee (University of Stellenbosch). 

The GDRI includes four work packages/focus areas, each of these had two coordinators.

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