Lab

Forb Ecology Research Group (FERG)

About the lab

FERG aims to contribute to an improved understanding of the ecology of grasslands and savannas of tropical and subtropical ecosystems with a particular interest in the ecological behaviour of forbs. Research projects are designed to study how the functions and services of forbs relate to their responses to disturbances with which they have evolved, e.g. herbivory, fire and climate variability. Despite a strong focus on forbs, most studies include comparisons with grasses to better understand the coexistence of these two life forms in grassy ecosystems. Assessing the bottom-up controls of aboveground vegetation patterns are also included in FERG for a more comprehensive outlook on complex global change effects, i.e. land-use and climate change, and changes to natural disturbance events.

Featured projects (1)

Project
To improve the scientific understanding of Ecosystem Resilience through the application of forb ecology research in tropical and subtropical grassy ecosystems

Featured research (7)

Grasslands are much more than just grass. Forbs (i.e., the non-graminoid herbaceous component) represent the largest proportion of total species- and functional richness in grassland ecosystems, which secure important ecosystem functions. Here, we present some highlights of only some of the important functions provided by this hyper-diverse plant life form in Africa. Online: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/igc/24/1-2/35/
The genus Merremia Dennst. ex Endl. (Convolvulaceae) is a rich source of structurally diverse phytochemicals with therapeutic relevance. This review presents the first comprehensive, up-to-date information and research progression on the nutritional value, ethnomedicinal uses, phyto-chemistry, pharmacological activities, and toxicity of the genus Merremia. Using the key search term "Merremia", relevant documents and information were retrieved from electronic databases. Relevant documents were uploaded in RStudio with installed bibliometric software packages and used for data retrieval, tabulation, and network visualization. Bibliometric analysis revealed that ca. 55% of the studies related to Merremia were published in the last decade, which can be grouped into four thematic areas: (i) drug formulation, (ii) taxonomy, (iii) chemical analysis, and (iv) treatment of diseases. Ethnomedicinal uses, phytochemistry, and biological activities studies showed that species in the genus are promising medicinal plants with various pharmaceutical potentials. However, clinical studies to validate the efficacy of the reported bioactivities and the mechanisms underlying the various activities are lacking and should constitute a future research focus. Additionally, reports on the nutritional and antinutritional constituents of Merremia species revealed that the species meet high nutritional quality criteria for animals and are therefore suitable for inclusion in livestock diets. The few available investigations on toxicity indicated that most Merremia species are safe for human and animal use but not with prolonged chronic administration.
Land-use effects on grassland flora are difficult to predict due to poor understanding of species losses caused by transformation.To determine changes in species diversity and composition by comparing transformed with untransformed grassland. Floristics of paired plots were sampled within 18 transformed sites (representing agricultural and urban land-uses) and neighbouring untransformed grassland. Endemic and threatened species were negatively affected by transformation, particularly species with belowground bud-banks and storage organs. Species composition, with clear shifts in dominant families, was changed by over 90% on average by transformation. Land-use transformation lead to the loss of native species and increased alien invasive species.
Background: Increased frequency and intensity of droughts related to climate change are predicted to induce pressure on herbaceous communities. Considering that forbs contribute significantly to savanna ecosystem resilience, we investigated forb communities of a protected semi-arid savanna during an extensive drought.Objective: We identified drought-tolerant species with their related functional traits.Results: Drought-tolerant forb flora comprised of several plant families and species with overlapping traits, of which the ability to resprout was related to perennials, whereas succulence and prostrate growth form were typical annual forb dominance traits.Conclusion: Results highlight the functional importance of forbs and their resilience to drought events in protected areas.
Background: Increased frequency and intensity of droughts related to climate change are predicted to induce pressure on herbaceous communities. Considering that forbs contribute significantly to savanna ecosystem resilience, we investigated forb communities of a protected semi-arid savanna during an extensive drought. Objective: We identified drought-tolerant species with their related functional traits. Results: Drought-tolerant forb flora comprised of several plant families and species with overlapping traits, of which the ability to resprout was related to perennials , whereas succulence and prostrate growth form were typical annual forb dominance traits. Conclusion: Results highlight the functional importance of forbs and their resilience to drought events in protected areas.

Lab head

Frances Siebert
Department
  • Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management

Members (9)

Tomi Lois Adetunji
  • North-West University
Helga van Coller
  • North-West University
Marlize Muller
  • North-West University
Tsumbedzo Ramalevha
  • North-West University, South Africa, Potchefstroom
Loewan L. Erasmus
  • North-West University
Clarissa Minnaar
  • North-West University
Jana Klem
  • North-West University
Elaine Slooten
  • North-West University