The overall focus of my research programme is the complex interactions between plants and herbivores in extensive (rangeland) systems, especially between trees and mammalian herbivores in African savannas. The main pillars of my research programme are (1) the effects of biotic and abiotic factors on chemical and physical traits of plants used by herbivores, and (2) the foraging efficiency, diet selection and performance of herbivores in relation to chemical and physical traits of plants. In particular, my focus is on understanding and modeling the feedback linkages between plants and herbivores that ultimately affect the performance of herbivores. I not only study both sides of the plant-herbivore interaction, but also recognise strong linkages between ecological and agricultural sciences. For example, management of extensive livestock systems can benefit from well developed understanding of extensive wildlife systems, and vice versa. My research therefore covers a wide scope including livestock production in communal areas, tree-goat interactions in savannas and plant-herbivore interactions in wildlife systems. This multidisciplinary research programme involves up to 30 co-investigators, students and assistants in the fields of Animal Science, Pasture Science, Chemistry, Hydrology, Ecology, Botany and Zoology from nine institutions in South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Finland and The Netherlands.
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