HIGHLIGHTS FROM SAJS Vol 107, No 9/10 (2011)
Fire and invasive alien plants pose challenges to the management of the new Garden Route National Park
Tineke Kraaij, Richard M. Cowling, Brian W. van Wilgen
The new Garden Route National Park, along the Cape south coast, contains a mixture of indigenous forests, fire-prone fynbos shrublands and fire-sensitive plantations of alien invasive trees. Kraaij et al. consider how biodiversity can be conserved in a fire-prone environment by reviewing fire management and other forestry policies in the park during the last century.
Their review, which is the first qualitative regional history of fire management in the Cape Floral Kingdom, concludes that fire management in the fynbos catchments of the park presents considerable challenges that cannot be overcome without first addressing the problem of invasive alien plants in the area. Substantial resources are needed to address decades of management neglect, whilst long-term sustainability of the region will depend on how various conflicting land uses are balanced.
Read more: Kraaij T, Cowling RM, Van Wilgen BW. Past approaches and future challenges to the management of fire and invasive alien plants in the new Garden Route National Park. S Afr J Sci. 2011;107(9/10), Art. #633, 11 pages. doi:10.4102/sajs.v107i9/10.633
REDD+ concept for Africa
Rudzani A. Makhado, Amani T. Saidi, Brian K. Mantlana, Mujasi D. Mwayafu
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has asked policymakers and researchers to examine how African countries can expand their role in climate change mitigation by receiving a larger share of carbon projects. The need for a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanism in developing countries has therefore become an integral part of the convention’s agenda.
Makhado et al. comment on the REDD mechanism which offers developing countries an opportunity to offset their carbon emission levels; financial benefits through trading of REDD+ offset credits; improved livelihood of local people adjacent to forests; and contributions towards biodiversity conservation. Despite these potential benefits, the introduction of the REDD concept in Africa faces several major challenges with respect to funding, capacity, land tenure and methodology. In addition, most rural people in Africa depend on forest resources for their livelihood and thus the implementation of REDD would affect them directly. Without their participation, REDD is unlikely to be successful.
Makhado et al. recommend several interventions to address these challenges and conclude that African countries should participate in international climate change negotiations in order to ensure that REDD+ negotiations are transparent, effective, practicable and serve the needs of society. Countries should formulate a binding agreement during the next COP 17 in Durban (December 2011) under the UNFCCC to reduce their emissions and to compensate countries involved in mitigation initiatives.
Read more: Makhado RA, Saidi AT, Mantlana BK, Mwayafu MD. Challenges of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) on the African continent. S Afr J Sci. 2011;107(9/10), Art. #615, 3 pages. doi:10.4102/sajs.v107i9/10.615
Humanities and social sciences under pressure
This editorial reflects on the state of the humanities and social sciences in South Africa, following two recent reports addressing the decline of these sciences since the advent of democracy in South Africa.
The reports, the Charter for the Humanities and Social Sciences, commissioned by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, and the Academy of Science of South Africa’s consensus report, The State of Humanities in South Africa, both provide information on the decline and investigate possible solutions to arrest this decline.
Although the reports differ in their research methodologies and conclusions, there is common ground between the reports: both echo concerns about the decline of the humanities and social sciences in terms of pedagogy, public legitimation and research.
Read more: The decline of the humanities and social sciences in South Africa (Leader). S Afr J Sci. 2011;107(9/10), Art. #928, 1 page. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajs.v107i9/10.928
What is the impact of mobile phone radiation on our health?
Barend A. Stander, Sumari Marais, Karin Huyser, Zen Fourie, Dariusz Leszczynski, Annie M. Joubert
The wide and increasing use of mobile phones has led to concerns about the long-term health effects of mobile phone usage. Because mobile phones emit low-energy electromagnetic fields, concerns have been raised as to whether exposure to this type of radiation can modify biological material, and thus negatively affect human health. Stander et al. therefore investigated the effects of non-thermal mobile phone radiation on breast cancer cells. Although they found no differences in metabolic cell activity, cell cycle progression or the generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, they did detect differences in cell morphology and cell apoptosis ( programmed cell death) in irradiated cells. These results and their correlation with other studies provide interesting links between radiofrequency radiation and cellular events and necessitate further investigation.
Read more: Stander BA, Marais S, Huyser C, Fourie Z, Leszczynski D, Joubert AM. Effects of non-thermal mobile phone radiation on breast adenocarcinoma cells. S Afr J Sci. 2011;107(9/10), Art. #525, 9 pages. doi:10.4102/sajs.v107i9/10.525