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Reflections on the Karoo Special Issue: towards an interdisciplinary research agenda for South Africa’s drylands

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 35, issue 3-4, 2018 , pages: 387–393
DOI: 10.2989/10220119.2018.1540910
Author(s): M Timm HoffmanPlant Conservation Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, South Africa, Cherryl WalkerDepartment of Sociology and Social Anthropology, South Africa, Joh R HenschelSouth African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON): Arid Lands Node, South Africa


We begin this essay with reflections on major research themes highlighted by the Karoo Special Issue (KSI). These include concerns over land-use change, long-term monitoring, climate change, governance and the need for more interdisciplinary research. We also identify some of the novel contributions of the KSI around these themes and highlight research issues that require further attention. These include greater focus on the social-ecological impact of large-scale infrastructural developments and wildlife ranching, as well as the need for more longitudinal studies related to contemporary social issues. We conclude by outlining a simple framework for thinking about interdisciplinarity in future research efforts in the Karoo. The first axis relates to the natural science/social science continuum, while the second is concerned with the continuum between basic and applied science. Greater awareness of these two dimensions could not only encourage researchers to reflect more carefully on where their research fits in relation to the broader research needs of this region but could also promote interdisciplinarity within the research community. It could also bring researchers closer to the realities and needs of the people who live in and derive their livelihoods from Karoo environments.

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