Associate Professor Lindsey Gillson

Deputy Director: Plant Conservation Unit
Applied palaeoecology, conservation and ecosystem management; theoretical ecology: resilience, thresholds, heterogeneity, variability, complexity and non-equilibrium; linking ecological and social systems


Lindsey Gillson is Associate Professor and Deputy Director at the Plant Conservation Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town. Her interests include landscape ecology, conservation biology and applied palaeoecology. Her research focusses on long-term ecosystem dynamics, and the implications for conservation, sustainability and ecosystem services. She has a focus on African ecosystems, especially savannas, and is interested in multidisciplinary studies of these complex socio-ecological systems. She is author of “Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Change: Using palaeoecology to manage dynamic landscapes in the Anthropocene.

Climate Change Link & Development Link

Understanding landscape change over time is essential in predicting and managing ecosystem services sustainably in the future. Climate change interacts with multiple other drivers, including land-use, fire and herbivory, and palaeoecological studies can help in unravelling these complexities. It is especially important to understand how, when and why ecosystems reach tipping points, when sudden changes can have dramatic impacts on biodiversity and socio-ecological systems.

Link to ACDI

As part of the ACDI-funded project “Benchmarks for the Future” students James MacPherson, Cherie Forbes, and Abraham Dabengwa undertook palaeoecological studies near biome boundaries, enabling their resilience (or otherwise) to be studied over long-time periods. This project complements ongoing work by Professor Timm Hoffman and his team, who use repeat photography to investigate landscape changes in southern Africa over the past century. Further projects involve the “main-streaming” of palaeoecological data into long-term studies of sustainability and ecosystem management. As well as this research, Lindsey Gillson contributes to ACDI masters teaching through through introductory core lectures on biodiversity and climate change. She also runs an optional, two week module on biodiversity and climate change, and is a member of the ACDI Steering Committee.

Associate Professor Gillson's full biography can be found here.

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