Updated 25/04/22

Research projects are defined and carried out jointly by the French researchers and their counterparts in Southern Africa.

In Southern Africa, the research programs carried out by the IRD, CNRS and CIRAD teams and their partners mainly focus on:

  • Biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Oceans
  • The Earth and the atmosphere
  • Societies
  • Health
  • Maths and technologies

 

Discover the main research projects:

The Rhabdomys mouse in the South African Karoo.

© CNRS - Carsten Schradin

The Rhabdomys mouse in the South African Karoo.

Biodiversity and ecosystems

South Africa is considered one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world due to the variety of its ecosystems, the diversity of its species and its rate of endemism. While it occupies only 2% of the land surface, it is home to 10% of plant species and 7% of reptile, bird and mammal species. South Africa also hosts around 15% of the world's marine species. Endemism reaches 56% for amphibians, 65% for plants and up to 70% for invertebrates.

The biodiversity erosion, caused by anthropogenic pressure and global change, poses serious threats to society and the economy.

Scientific collaboration between CNRS, IRD and CIRAD on biodiversity and conservation issues is extremely dynamic in the region. Many joint research projects aim to gain a better understanding of the services provided by ecosystems, their evolution under the influence of climatic and anthropogenic disruptions and the impact of these changes on human societies.

Tunas

© IRD - Ifremer

Climate change has consequences on the ocean food chain. Tunas could also be impacted.

Oceans

Southern Africa is bordered by the South Atlantic Ocean on its west coast and the Indian Ocean on its east coast. This area is characterized by major oceanic currents (Agulhas and Benguela currents) and by the Benguela coastal upwelling. These two oceans and the Southern Ocean further south have a large influence on local and global climate. They offer significant fishery resources and a biodiversity-rich natural environment.

For more than 20 years, the IRD has been developing marine science projects with its South African partners based in the Cape region, which led to the creation of an international joint laboratory, ICEMASA (2009-18). This cooperation in marine sciences is still very active and has diversified and extended to other institutions in South Africa such as Nelson Mandela University.

Simultaneous launch of fixe laser beams from the Maïdo observatory, La Réunion.

© IRD/CNRS - Thibault Vergoz

Simultaneous launch of fixe laser beams from the Maïdo observatory, La Réunion.

Earth and atmosphere

Land and atmosphere research is based on the geographical characteristics of southern Africa. South Africa provides field opportunities for geological studies, ancient tectonics, mineralogy, and gemology and has significant mineral resources due to a very old craton bordered by archaic tectonics. Collaborations in southern Africa in this field seek to better understand the construction of the earth mantle and its current deformations. In other time and space scales, various other projects analyse soil degradation and aim to stimulate carbon sequestration in soils in response to climate change.
In the context of global change, systematic monitoring of the atmosphere structure, dynamics and composition is crucial. However, compared to the northern hemisphere, the tropical and southern regions of the southern hemisphere are still relatively unknown, even though they are important components of the global atmosphere. Collaborations with the CNRS in this area began in 1992 and are currently focusing on the impact of anthropogenic pollution on climate change and health, transport and deposition of mineral dust and the interactions between the stratosphere and troposphere.

Pirogue

© IRD - Hyacinthe Lesecq

Pirogue à Madagascar.

Societies

The study of human and social dynamics forms a vast scientific field and our research collaborations in this field are extensive and very diverse. The joint research projects focus, among other, on the governance of land and natural resources, the analysis of social transformations brought about by digital technology and the consequences of the increasing use of information technologies in development policies carried out in the South, and the people’s strategies for adapting to global change.
South Africa hosts many hominins fields, for example on the sites of Sterkfontein and Swartkrans (“Cradle of Humankind”), but also archaeological deposits from middle and end of Stone Age and art rock sites. Supported by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, cooperation in palaeosciences between France and South Africa is ancient and emblematic and has spread regionally to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.

One of the few malaria awareness signs in the Vhembe district, in South Africa.

© IRD - Cécile Bégard

One of the few malaria awareness signs in the Vhembe district, in South Africa.

Health

Our health scientific partnerships focus on communicable diseases. Population growth, deforestation, urbanization, intensive and extensive agriculture, climate change and trade globalization create new environments to which vectors, hosts and pathogens adapt in differentiated ways. A better understanding of their interactions and their consequences on the mechanisms and conditions of transmission is essential for developing new strategies and tools for their control.
The IRD and its University of Pretoria partners are studying the environmental and sociological factors leading to the seasonal re-emergence of malaria in the north of South Africa.

A series of projects carried out by IRD, CIRAD and their partners in Zimbabwe aims to identify the pathogens in some animals and to understand the dynamics of pathogen circulation between wild and domestic fauna in a "one health" approach.

Solar energy.

© Infinite Cell

Solar energy.

Maths and technologies

Laboratory.

© IRD/CNRS - Cécile Bégard

Laboratory.

Completed projects

  • Adaptation_Bruits – Brown fur seal communication in noisy environments

    Adaptation_Bruits – Brown fur seal communication in noisy environments

     

    2020-2021

    South Africa, Namibia

    Context

    Animal communication plays a fundamental role in reproduction and survival. Seals are marine mammals that come ashore to reproduce, forming large colonies, and which use vocalizations in all social interactions. The colonies have a high density of individuals, generating a loud and constant background noise, among which these animals need to communicate and recognize each other.

    So far, studies of seals vocal communications have focused on their activities on land. However, they spend most of their lives at sea, where nothing is known. Growing disturbances in their natural environment (maritime traffic, oil prospecting, military sonar) threaten their communication processes and their survival.

    Objectives

    This project aimed to describe the communication strategies that brown fur seals use in order to adapt to the noises generated by their colony and those generated by human activity.

    The project described the vocal repertoire of this species on land, during the breeding season, as well as the acoustic signatures allowing recognition between individuals, in particular between mother and calf, and between territorial males. This helped determine the adaptation strategies developed by this species to cope with the strong ambient noise of breeding colonies.

    Seals’ communication at sea were also studied in order to assess the threats to which this marine species is exposed during its activities at sea, and to better understand their strategies and behavioural adaptations to face or avoid these nuisances.

    Researchers used innovative methods to observe seals:

    • multi-sensor devices attached to the animal to collect multi-dimensional data during food hunting (video, audio, depth, accelerometry, etc.)
    • multi-channel underwater recorders
    • signal analysis methods to describe and analyze voice signals
    • innovative signal processing methods to identify and locate multiple sound sources in the context of passive acoustic monitoring
    • playback experiences (diffusion of social sounds and/or anthropogenic noises)
    • physiological measurements to assess physiological stress levels (measurement of glucocorticoid hormones produced in response to noise exposure).

    Partners

    Scientific coordination: Isabelle Charrier, Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience

    Funding

    CNRS - Mission for Transversal and Interdisciplinary Initiatives

  • AEROCLO-SA - Aerosol radiation and clouds in Southern Africa

    AEROCLO-SA - AErosol RadiatiOn and CLOuds in Southern Africa

     

    January 2016 - December 2019

    Namibia, South Africa

    Context

    The representation of clouds, aerosols and cloud-aerosol-radiation interaction remain one of the largest uncertainties in climate change, limiting our ability to accurately reconstruct and predict future climate change. The South East Atlantic is a region where high atmospheric aerosol loadings and semi-permanent stratocumulus cloud are co-located. This area provides a unique natural laboratory for studying the full range of aerosol-radiation and aerosol-cloud interactions and their perturbations of the Earth’s radiation budget. Aside the fundamental knowledge that can be gained from the study of this environment, these perturbations of the radiative systems occurring in have a significant impact, not just locally but also via global teleconnections on wider changes in climate. They have never been detailed, although measurements of the combined cloud-aerosol-radiation system over the South-East Atlantic are crucial in constraining the current generation of large eddy simulation, numerical weather prediction and climate models.

    Objectives

    The AErosol RadiatiOn and CLOuds in Southern Africa (AEROCLO-SA) project proposed a break-through study focusing on the South East Atlantic off the western coast of Southern Africa providing a novel evaluation of the interactions between aerosols, clouds and radiation and their representation in global and regional models.

    AEROCLO-SA delivered a wide range of airborne, surface-based and satellite measurements of clouds, aerosols, and their radiative impacts to:

    • improve representation in models of absorbing and scattering aerosols;
    • reduce uncertainty of the direct, semi-direct and indirect radiative effect, and their impact on stratocumulus clouds;
    • challenge satellite retrievals of cloud and aerosol and their radiative impacts to validate and improve algorithms.

    Partners

    Scientific coordination: Paola Formenti (LISA)

    Funding

    French National Research Agency (ANR)

     

    Follow the project on Twitter

    Read also : Fire smoke from South America reaches the Namibian coast.

  • ATLANTOS - Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing Systems

    ATLANTOS: Optimising and Enhancing the Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing Systems

     

    April 2015 – June 2019

    South Africa

    AtlantOS was a BG 8 (Developing in-situ Atlantic Ocean Observations for a better management and sustainable exploitation of the maritime resources) research and innovation project that proposed the integration of ocean observing activities across all disciplines for the Atlantic, considering European as well as non-European partners.

    Objectives

    The vision of AtlantOS was to improve and innovate Atlantic observing by using the Framework of Ocean Observing to obtain an international, more sustainable, more efficient, more integrated, and fit-for-purpose system. Hence, the AtlantOS initiative has a long-lasting and sustainable contribution to the societal, economic and scientific benefit arising from this integrated approach. This was achieved by improving the value for money, extent, completeness, quality and ease of access to Atlantic Ocean data required by industries, product supplying agencies, scientist and citizens.

    The overarching target of the AtlantOS initiative was to deliver an advanced framework for the development of an integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System that goes beyond the state-of–the-art, and leaves a legacy of sustainability after the life of the project (see AtlantOS High-Level Strategy and find out more about the AtlantOS program).

    The legacy derived from the AtlantOS aimed:

    • to improve international collaboration in the design, implementation and benefit sharing of ocean observing,
    • to promote engagement and innovation in all aspects of ocean observing,
    • to facilitate free and open access to ocean data and information,
    • to enable and disseminate methods of achieving quality and authority of ocean information,
    • to strengthen the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and to sustain observing systems that are critical for the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service and its applications and
    • to contribute to the aims of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

    Partners

    Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany

  • AWARE - Zimbabwe bat viruses screening

    AWARE - Zimbabwe bat viruses screening

     

    January 2018 – January 2020

    Zimbabwe

    Context

    Over 70% of emerging infectious diseases originate in wildlife. Many wild species are carriers of pathogens and most of their cross-species transmission results primarily from human activities. The development of detection tools and the establishment of sentinel surveillance requires a broad knowledge of microorganisms circulating in wildlife.

    Bats harbor many viruses particularly dangerous to human and/or domestic animals. They caught our attention recently due to their association with severe emerging infectious diseases. Numerous Bat species inhabit in Zimbabwe (>60). This country is in the subtropical zone and is considered as a potential hot spot of emergence. Human activities increasing exposure to bats will likely increase the risk for infections and spill over in the future.

    Objectives

    This project aimed to identify and characterize bat viruses in Zimbabwe and the risk of emergence of these viruses in human populations and livestock. It assessed the viral communities circulating among bats colonies in different parts of Zimbabwe.

    The following scientific questions were addressed:

    • Which viruses circulate in bat colonies in Zimbabwe?
    • Which bat species could be involved in pathogens spill over events?

    The project brought the first indispensable information to set up diagnostic tools, predictive mathematical models, viral disease surveillance and control systems in order to prevent future pathogens spill over events or their impact in both human and livestock populations.

    Partners

    Scientific coordination: Florian Liegeois, IRD, MIVEGEC

    Funding

    Labex CEMEB 2017 - exploratory research projects

     

    Read also : Improving knowledge on coronaviruses carried by bats to protect human populations.

  • CAZCOM - Control of animal and zoonotic diseases

    CAZCOM - Control of animal and zoonotic diseases

     

    French solidarity fund for innovative projects (FSPI)

    January 2019 - December 2020

    Zimbabwe

    Context

    Environmental changes related to climate change have a major impact on the emergence of vector-borne and non-vector-borne diseases in humans, domestic animals and wildlife. The human, societal, environmental and economic costs associated with emerging and / or re-emerging infectious diseases are considerable. Zimbabwe, a country located in the subtropical area, will have to face many human and veterinary sanitary challenges in connection with these global changes. Currently, the lack of resources, skilled personnel, and advanced biotechnology infrastructures does not allow the country to put in place an adequate health response and effectively respond to diseases.

    Objectives

    The main objective of the CAZCOM project was to build Zimbabwe's capacity to improve the surveillance and control of important animal and zoonotic diseases. The project, with its training activities, the establishment of a laboratory with international standards, the development of research projects and the setting-up of effective surveillance and control systems for emerging infectious diseases aimed to increase the autonomy of Zimbabwe for the control of animal diseases and to follow the national strategy for its breeding. 

    The project had four components:

    • Technical and Academic Training
    • Technical capacity development in molecular biology
    • Establishment of effective and autonomous surveillance systems for surveillance of animal and zoonotic diseases
    • Project Management

    Partners

    Scientific coordination: Florian Liégeois, IRD

    Funding

     

    Read also : Covid-19: improving knowledge on coronaviruses carried by bats to protect human populations

  • CIGOEF - Climate change impacts on global oceanic ecosystems & fisheries

    CIGOEF - Climate change impacts on global oceanic ecosystems & fisheries

     

    October 2017 - October 2020 

    South Africa

    Context

    Oceanic ecosystems cover more than 70% of the Earth surface and provide major ecosystem services. They are responsible for most of the carbon transfer to the deep ocean, thus having a major influence on atmospheric CO2 and climate. They host a rich biodiversity with emblematic large predatory fishes whose exploitation supports livelihood and supplies animal protein for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Amongst them, tunas are the major part with annual catches reaching more than 7.7 million tons and an economical value around 40 billion US$.
    However, climate change is threatening these ecosystems and precious ecological services. Climate change affects ocean temperature, stratification and circulation. It may trigger the expansion of anoxic “dead zones” over vast regions of the global ocean and the absorption of anthropogenic carbon leads to a marked seawater acidification. It has negative consequences on primary production, which fuels food chains and biodiversity, and potentially important effects on the structure of ecosystems. Climate change pushes oceanic ecosystems toward new states, with unknown consequences for essential services such as fisheries and associated economies, and potential feedbacks to the climate system through alteration of the biological carbon pump.

    Objectives

    Achieving sustainability of oceanic ecosystems in this context is a fundamental issue, and there is an urgent need for clear political strategies toward this aim. In this perspective, an inclusive socio-ecological analysis is urgently needed to anticipate climate-change threats and opportunities, and integrate complex processes into policy-relevant scenarios, in support of sustainable governance of oceanic resources and adaptation to climate change. The purpose of this project was therefore to address these urgent challenges from a scientific perspective, analysing and projecting the global oceanic socio-ecological system each step of the way from climate to fish markets.

    Partners

    Scientific coordination: Olivier Maury - MARBEC

    Funding

    French National Research Agency (ANR)

  • DOM-ART - Dating the oldest manifestations of art in South Africa

    DOM-ART - Dating the Oldest Manifestations of ART in South Africa

     

    January 2017 - December 2018

    South Africa

    Context

    The age of the first manifestations of Art in South Africa, as well as the chronology of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) lithic industries to which they are associated, are hotly debated. This is due to a lack of consensus about the available dating results obtained these last years by the application of the luminescence dating techniques. This ANR project proposed to develop a new chronology of the MSA based on the direct dating of bio-minerals (ostrich eggshells –OES, snails and other carbonated and phosphated materials –teeth) using the U-series dating method (U/Th).

    Objectives

    • Conversely to the usual way of application of this method, the first objective was to map in the samples the distributions of uranium and thorium on large areas in order to identify zones not affected by post-depositional processes. Mapping the distributions of uranium and thorium would allow, theoretically, to compute ages but the researchers used the same laser-ablation system to sample the unaltered parts of these materials and obtained enough material for precise measurements.
    • The second objective concerned the analysis of these micro-samples (ranging from the sub mg to 100 mg): developing novel approaches in order to address the analytical challenge consisting in determining low uranium and thorium contents (2-500 ppb) and low abundant 234U and 230Th in these microsamples.

    The main objective was to establish a detailed chronology of numerous MSA sites, to fuel the debate on the emergence of modern behaviors during the MSA period and to allow in the future the direct dating of engraved OES whose age could be as old as 80,000 years, what had never been done before.

    Partners

    • Institut de recherche sur les Archéomatériaux – Centre de recherche en physique appliquée à l’archéologie - IRAMAT-CRP2A (UMR 5060 CNRS-Université Bordeaux Montaigne)
    • Institute of Analytical Sciences and Physico-Chemistry for Environment and Materials (IPREM)
    • Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement – Institut Pierre Simon Laplace - LSCE/IPSL (UMR 8212 CEA-CNRS- Université Versailles Saint-Quentin)

    Scientific coordination: Norbert Mercier - IRAMAT

    Funding

    French national Research Agency

  • Diversity and evolution of beneficial and pests insects in agroecosystems

    Diversity and evolution of beneficial and pests insects in agroecosystems

     

    2018 - 2020

    South Africa

    Objectives

    This project aimed at exploring the specific and functional diversity of insect species in tropical agro-ecosystems.

    It used high-throughout DNA sequencing approaches to explore insects’ species. The CBGP team is expert at identifying insect of crops (pests & beneficial species) via morphology, DNA barcoding and metabarcoding.

    These projects took place in the broader framework of the development of agroecology in this region.

    Subprojects :

    • Opi-Syst 2018 - 2020: Systematics and evolution of Opiinae (Hymenoptera, Braconidae) in the Afrotropical region: building up reference knowledge for the improvement of biocontrol of fruit flies, funded by the AgreenSkills program (France-EU) and Hortgro (South Africa)
    • 2018 - 2020: Diversity and structure of oil palm pollinators, funded by PalmElit (whole Africa)
    • VOICES 2018-20: Cover crops for biological control in apple orchards. Identification of parasitic hymenoptera. Coordinated by Leeds University (UK), funded by EU.

    Partners

    Scientific coordination: Julien Haran, CBGP

    Funding

  • ESASTAP - Strengthening Cooperation between Europe and South Africa

    ESASTAP 2020 - Strengthening Technology, Research and Innovation Cooperation between Europe and South Africa

     

    February 2016 - January 2019

    South Africa

    ESASTAP 2020 was a dedicated platform that supported the deepening of scientific and technological cooperation between South Africa and the European Union with a special focus on innovation.This was achieved by supporting South Africa’s participation in Horizon 2020, but also by promoting reciprocal European participation in South African programmes.

    Objectives

    • Enrich the science, technology and innovation policy dialogue ;
    • Promote strategic cooperation under the main instruments, chiefly Horizon 2020 ;
    • Better coordinate and exploit synergy between EU and national programmes ;
    • Expand cooperation to specifically address innovation partnerships.

    ESASTAP 2020 consortium partners

    Coordinator: Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (FORTH) – Greece

  • Globafrica - Sub-Saharan Africa and the World prior to European Imperialism

    Globafrica - Reconnecting Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa and the World prior to European Imperialism

     

    Globafrica was a four-year research programme funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) that aimed to rethink the global integration of Africa before the European Imperialism from a historical perspective.

    This multidisciplinary (history and archeology) project intended to establish new tools to give a balanced vision of connections between Africa and the other continents before the slave trade and colonialism, in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively.

    More information on the IFAS website.

  • ICEMASA - International Centre for Education, Marine and Atmospheric Sciences over Africa

    ICEMASA - International Centre for Education, Marine and Atmospheric Sciences over Africa

     

    January 2009 - December 2018

    South Africa

    ICEMASA was an international joint laboratory set up between South African and French institutions focusing on marine and atmospheric sciences. ICEMASA aimed at promoting cooperation in various research topics: ocean circulation, ocean-atmosphere exchanges, marine biogeochemistry, marine ecosystems and fisheries, along the margins of Southern Africa (Atlantic and Indian oceans) and in the Southern Ocean. Quantitative approaches (incl. numerical modelling) formed an important component of the program. Human capacity development in ocean sciences was deeply embedded in the ICEMASA mandate.

    Objectives

    This international joint laboratory had several objectives:

    • facilitate exchanges of scientific staff between France and Southern Africa
    • supplement existing capacities on specific research themes
    • connect physical and ecological sciences in the marine environment
    • promote studies assessing climate change impacts on ocean, ecosystems & fisheries
    • strengthen capacity by developing education and training program

    ICEMASA was made of two components: a research package developed according to a science plan, and a training and education program promoting mobility for Master’s and Doctoral students between France and South Africa.

    Key figures

    60 researchers and technicians, across various disciplines: physical oceanography, marine biogeochemistry, ecosystem modeling, marine ecology and fisheries.

    Staff:

    611 months of expatriated staff from IRD, University of Brest and CNRS between 2009 and 2018

    70.5 months/year of expatriated French staff in average (8 to 11 researchers present at the same time for 2011-2015)

    55 months of long-term mission (2-3 months) for French staff

    Publications (peer-reviewed journals):

    310 articles published (2009-2017)

    33% co-authorship with southern African scientists

    Education/Training program:

    67 students co-supervised : 26 PhD, 33 Master’s and 8 Honours

    55% of students from Southern Africa, 61%from Africa, 72% from Africa+ Indian Ocean islands (see map)

    Specialist lectures, tutorials (Honours, Master’s), Summer schools, Workshops

    Establishment of co-badged Master’s between UCT-UBO and UCT-UM

    Partners

    France
    South Africa

     

    More information on www.icemasa.org

    Download the ICEMASA leaflet.

    Learn more on the ongoing marine science collaboration.

  • INFINITE-CELL - Development of next generation solar cells

    INFINITE-CELL - Development of next generation solar cells

     

    November 2017 - October 2021

    South Africa

    Context

    Photovoltaic (PV) is recognized as one of the main renewable energy solutions for fulfilling the targets defined by the EU Energy Roadmap 2050 and the SET Plan. Most of the current commercial PV devices are formed by single junctions, and more complex device concepts allowing a significant increase in device efficiency (well beyond the theoretical limit in the 30%-33% range) are still mostly limited to expensive III-V technologies.

    Objectives

    INFINITE-CELL proposed extending the very high efficiency tandem device concepts to emerging thin film PV technologies with high potential for reduction of costs and avoiding the use of critical raw materials. Within this context, the aim was to establish and consolidate an international and intersectoral cooperation between 6 academic institutions, 2 European companies, and 4 non academic institutions (see partners below), for the development of cost-efficient photovoltaic tandem devices based in the combination of wide band-gap kesterite absorbers as top cell, and low cost c-Si thin film as bottom cell. Thanks to the combination of the know-how generated in previous and successful FP7 projects (PVICOKEST and EUROSUNMED), INFINITE-CELL developed stacked and monolithically integrated kesterite/c-Si thin film devices with efficiencies of 15% and 20% respectively, using only fully sustainable materials and processes.

    Partners

    Scientific coordination: Catalonia Institute for Energy Research, Spain

    Funding

    European Commission - H2020-MSCA-RISE-2017

     

    Learn more : http://www.infinite-cell.eu/about/

  • LANDTHIRST - The landscapes of thirst

    LANDTHIRST - The landscapes of thirst: behavioural adjustments to face water scarcity in a changing climate

     

    September 2016 - September 2020 

    South Africa, Zimbabwe

    Context and objectives

    Climate change threatens the availability of surface water in many places. Water is essential to life, and most animal species need to drink, always, during some specific periods of the year, or during extreme climatic events (e.g. heat waves). The inability for individuals to drink, even for a short period of time, may sometimes threaten entire populations. When faced with a lack of water, individuals need to shift their diet towards water-rich food items or search for water in the landscape. Are these changes in diet costly, leading to poorer diet quality? How do animals know where to find other water sources before dehydration hits?

    Why do animals use areas where they could be trapped without water, rather than remain near permanent water sources? These are critical questions in the context of understanding the impact of climate change, but they remain unanswered. Their study is the goal of the LANDTHIRST project, which has the ambition to be the first integrative study of behavioural adjustments of wildlife to the lack of water.

    Method

    LANDTHIRST was conducted using two African ungulates as model species (Plains zebra (Equus quagga) and Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)) in one of the largest African protected areas (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe), which is also a Long-Term Ecological Research site and a rare long-term observatory of climate change and its ecosystems impacts. The challenge of studying animal behaviour in the wild was addressed by using a combination of methodological approaches: for example, the scientists studied the spatial behaviour of individuals with GPS-tracking, movement modelling and newly developed analyses of recursion patterns; diet composition and quality were studied using DNA-barcoding and near-infra-red spectroscopy; isotopic analyses revealed the changes in the source of water consumed.

    Overall LANDTHIRST has achieved:

    • producing immediate knowledge on the impact of climate change on species, with a case study based on African savannas, ecosystems of cultural and environmental interest at the global scale
    • paving the way for a greater awareness of the impact of changes in drinking water availability for wildlife and biodiversity, while offering conceptual and methodological advances in the scientific study of these effects in other systems.
  • RESMACA - Spatial monitoring to achieve elimination of residual malaria in South Africa

    RESMACA - Spatial monitoring to achieve elimination of residual malaria in South Africa

     

    May 2017 - April 2021

    South Africa, Zimbabwe

    Context

    Malaria has declined significantly in South Africa but persists in the provinces bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It benefits from an environment conducive to its maintenance and regular reintroductions linked to socio-economic factors. Knowledge of favorable environmental conditions and their seasonal dynamics remains limited but is a challenge to better control the occurrence of epidemics.

    Objectives

    • To better understand land use, environmental and climatic changes as contributors to the persistence of residual malaria.
    • To identify social, economical and behavioural patterns (e.g. KAP analysis) that determine vulnerability to malaria, on both sides of the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
    • To better understand parasitological (including haplotype variations) and biological characteristics as contributors to asymptomatic carriage, and gametocyte carriage.
    • To better understand vector dynamics

    Partners

    France
    South Africa

    Scientific coordination

    France
    South Africa

    Funding for environmental study

    Sentinel-2 Malaria (Sentinel-2 for Malaria Surveillance), 05/2017-04/2019, funded by CNES. Objective: Acquire information from the Sentinel-2 satellites in order to guide malaria surveillance in South Africa and Madagascar.

    • SeaSpots - Changes in the annual climate cycle over South Africa and ocean hotspots

      SeaSpots - Changes in the annual climate cycle over South Africa and ocean hotspots

       

      2020-2021

      South Africa

      Context

      Southern African climate dynamics and the annual cycle is driven and influenced by a number of factors, at a range of scales. Given that the demonstrable need for improved seasonal scale forecasting is rising, the project goes back to first principles to look at the dynamics of key regional ocean-atmosphere hotspots (Agulhas Current & retroflection, the Seychelles-Chagos thermocline ridge, and the Angola–Benguela frontal zone) located around southern Africa, at weather to seasonal time ranges.

      Objectives

      The aim is to contribute to understanding the role of these oceanographic features in the annual cycle and to improve the models that are used to predict seasonal climate.

      Partners

      Scientific coordination: Professor Chris Reason, University of Cape Town and Serena Illig, IRD.

       

      This project is part of the ACCESS programme: Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science.

    • TelluS-RIFT - Impact of Rift Initiation on a Continental Ecosystem

      TelluS-RIFT - Impact of Rift Initiation on a Continental Ecosystem: The Okavango Delta

       

      January 2017 - January 2020

      Botswana

      Analysis of the processes underlying the current intraplate deformation of the Okavango rift.

      Context

      The Okavango Delta (Botswana) is inland endorheic wetland, located in the middle of the southern-african plateau and  controlled by a NE-SW-oriented graben (depressed block of the crust of a planet bordered by parallel faults) aged between 120000 years and 2 Ma.

      A field trip in October 2010 made it possible to set up a network of geodetic points on both sides and in the Delta, in order to measure the ground deformation induced by tectonics and hydrology. The network of geodetic points is completed by two stations already managed by the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) to monitor the ground response to hydrological variations.

      Objectives

      This scientific project aimed to better understand the interactions between hydrological, geodynamic, sedimentological and ecological processes that control the short-term and medium-term dynamic dynamics of this particular geo-ecosystem. It was part of the logical sequence of the theme on the deformation of the South African plateau and allowed coupling current and old deformations. It considered past climate change in order to understand the impact of current changes. Thus, scientists performed several types of studies: GPS ground deformations, chemical analyzes of water quality, soil and rock sampling. It was therefore a multidisciplinary project, bringing together tectonics, geophysicists, sedimentologists, hydrologists, geographers and ecologists.

      Partners

      Funding

      TelluS-RIFT: CNRS INSU, INEE, INSHS

       

      This project was followed by the International Emerging Action Okavango.

    • TestCor - Testing the control of predation risk hypothesis

      TestCor - Testing the control of predation risk hypothesis

       

      International Programme for Scientific Cooperation (PICS)

      January 2019 – December 2021

      South Africa

      Context

      Predation is a strong evolutionary force, and virtually all species have evolved behavioural and physiological responses to reduce predation risk, so that prey benefit from increased fitness despite the fact that these responses carry costs. These costs are the mechanisms underlying the non-consumptive effects of predation, which have been shown to be ecologically important, and sometimes as great as consumptive effects. These costs most often arise from a reduction in foraging (foraging-safety trade-offs), or from the mounting of a stress response that can have deleterious effects on the long run. However, there is currently no theory to predict and explain when and why one type of response, or the two, would be observed.

      Objectives

      In this project, scientists tested the ‘control of risk’ hypothesis proposed by Creel (2018, Ecol. Lett.) to explain the variability in nature and strength of costs of antipredator responses.

      They tested the hypothesis using field observations and experiments on ungulates in South African reserves, and organized an international workshop on the topic that served as a mid-term review of the hypothesis, as a course for students, and provided future research directions.

      Partners

      Scientific coordination : Simon Chamaillé-Jammes - CEFE

      Funding

      CNRS - National Institute of Ecology and Environment

    • Whycooperate - Evolution of cooperation among living beings

      Whycooperate - Can cooperation be under social or sexual selection?

       

      December 2015 - December 2019

      South Africa

      Assessing the reliability of cooperation and examining the direct benefits obtained by co-operators

      The project “Whycooperate” studied cooperation behaviours among living beings.

      Context

      Cooperation is present at all levels of biological organisation, from bacteria to vertebrates such as humans. The evolution of cooperation has been largely explained by kin selection theory and thus by indirect fitness benefits obtained by individuals who help relatives.

      One of the main challenges currently is to empirically test the potential additional role of the direct benefits obtained by helpers and especially of those obtained through social and sexual selection. Social and sexual selection predict that more cooperative individuals are preferentially chosen as social or sexual partners, but these hypotheses are contentious because it remains debated whether cooperation can be reliable, i.e. linked to individual quality or future cooperativeness. If information is not reliable, cooperation cannot be used in partner choice.

      Objectives

      To determine whether sexual or social selection play a role in the evolution of cooperation, the project had 3 objectives:

      • To test overlooked mechanisms that can ensure the reliability of cooperation and thus its association with condition and/or future cooperativeness.
      • To measure the social and sexual benefits of cooperation for the co-operators and the individuals that associate with them.
      • To test the links between cooperation and dominance to examine one of the expected consequences of the occurrence of direct benefits for helpers, which is that they lead to competition to cooperate

      The study focused on a colonial cooperative breeding bird, the sociable weaver. These weavers cooperate around multiple tasks, most notably:

      • to breed
      • to build a massive communal nest (wherein up to 200 birds can roost and breed)
      • to collectively defend nests against predators

      Research axes

      Axis 1

      Cooperation can be reliable and detectable if it is a costly condition dependent signal. The project assessed the physiological costs (oxidative stress, telomeres reduction) of helping and manipulated helper condition and the audience to measure their respective consequences for cooperation. Additionally two alternative solutions were tested: (i) cooperation is reliable because it is a repeatable behaviour characteristic of an individual, i.e. a personality trait and or (ii) because propensity to cooperate is signalled through morphological traits, i.e. ‘badges of cooperation’. Behavioural tests assessed whether co-operators have different personalities. Melanin plumage traits, which are often pleiotropic were related to cooperation to determine whether they can be badge of cooperation.

      Axis 2

      Long-term data and short-term experiments were used to assess pairing success, group membership and survival in relation to cooperative investment and also whether individuals that mate with co-operators obtain fitness benefits due to better parental care. The study also determined the potential link of DRD4 gene with cooperation and personality and thus the potential for cooperation to be heritable and sexually selected through mate choice if advantageous.

      Axis 3

      Dominance hierarchies were established and linked to cooperation to examine competition to cooperate.

      Funding

      Partners

      Coordination:

       

      This project has been followed by the Social Weaver Project.

      Read also : Researchers build first AI tool capable of identifying individual birds.

    • WIoDER - Widening the deltas’ scope

      WIoDER - Western Indian ocean Deltas Exchange & Research

      Widening the deltas’ scope

       

      January 2017 - December 2019

      Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania

      The WIoDER project was an international and multi-disciplinary research network studying the contemporary evolution of the deltas of the Western Indian Ocean. It was co-funded by the IDRC (Canadian International Development Research Center) and the IRD.

      The research carried out within the framework of the WIoDER network aimed at understanding the functioning of these particular socio-ecosystems, describing their recent evolutions and at analyzing the impacts of the current public policies (conversion of the floodplains or on the contrary the creation of protected areas).

      Objectives

      In this context, the members of the WIoDER network had the following objectives:

      • to develop research methodologies adapted to the delta studies;
      • to acquire, analyze and compare data at the regional level;
      • to share and disseminate appropriate scientific approaches and tools;
      • to connect students, researchers, decision-makers and delta inhabitants, in order to better understand the functioning of these socio-ecosystems in their different dimensions (hydrological, ecological, socio-economic, etc.).

      Research programs

      WIoDER developed five field school and research programs on four sites in the Western Indian Ocean region: the Tana delta in Kenya (« Biodiversity »), the Rufiji delta in Tanzania (« Livelihoods », « Migrations »), the Limpopo delta in Mozambique (« Hydrology ») and the Betsiboka delta in Madagascar (« Mangroves »).

       A long-term goal was to set up a sustainable regional cooperation for the development of an observatory of Western Indian Ocean deltas dynamics.

      Partners

      Scientific coordination

      • Dr. Stéphanie Duvail, WIoDER Principal Investigator (coordination), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, IRD, France
      • Dr. Craig Hutton, WIoDER co-Principal Investigator, University of Southampton, England
      • Dr. Paolo Paron, WIoDER co-Principal Investigator, IHE-Delft, Mozambique

       

      The WIoDER network was followed by the DiDEM project.

    • WISHES – Wild host diversity: how to estimate and detect pathogens?

      WISHES – Wild host diversity: how to estimate and detect pathogens?

       

      July 2018 – June 2020

      Zimbabwe

      Context and objectives

      Multi-species transmission is a key process in the spread of infectious diseases. The mechanisms underlying multi-species transmission are not well known. Recent theories suggest that a more diversified host community leads to a dilution of the risk of transmission. Furthermore, epidemiological models still rarely account for the full composition of the host community. This is especially true when wildlife species can serve as hosts, because of the difficulty to describe the host community and to detect pathogens in wildlife.

      The project developed a method to study the dynamic of a multi-hosts pathogen in situ (i.e. the foot and mouth disease in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe), using non-invasive saliva collection and Pocket PCR. The scientists conducted a longitudinal survey over a year to detect virus occurrence in host species and to describe host species community composition. They further characterized host species community composition through the analysis of historical wildlife census data. These were the first steps towards testing the dilution effect by linking host community composition and infectious risk.

      Partners

      Scientific coordination: Eve Miguel, IRD, MIVEGEC

      Funding

      Labex Cemeb University of Montpellier – 2019-2020