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 School of Geography and the Environment

Doctoral Student: Janice Golding

Janice Golding

Position: Dphil Student: Completed June 2008

Contact: e:

DPhil Topic: Change in plant biodiversity in south-central Africa.


My doctoral research is located in the broad field of plant conservation biology. The research is being conducted across five countries - Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, the Caprivi in Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe (referred to as the Flora Zambesiaca region). I examine concepts and measures of extinction risk frameworks in common use in south-central Africa and in conservation science, and then I set out to determine whether aspects of species’ life-history traits can be used to refine existing frameworks. My database of more than 1,700 ‘rare’ and ‘common’ species includes various aspects of distributional properties (e.g. endemism and IUCN Red List status) and life-history traits (dispersal and pollination mode, mode of sexual reproduction, sprouting capacity, seed desiccation behaviour and life-form). The database was developed from herbarium specimens that are summarised in the standard taxonomic series for the study area (Flora Zambesiaca volumes, 1960 - present). Field ecologists, seed physiologists and taxonomists affiliated to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew have played an important role in peer-reviewing the database.

Janice Golding in the field

The goal of my research is to contribute to the development of conservation priorities in my study area. The basic questions I address are:

  • What kinds of concepts are used to determine extinction risk, and why?
  • Are life-history traits useful as basic indicators of extinction risk?
  • What should be the biological basis for conservation priorities concerning species at risk of extinction?

The research objectives addressed in my thesis are to:

  • Review the range of extinction risk theories in use as applied to plant species and examine the underlying methodologies used for measuring risk.
  • Undertake a literature review that will help to develop a conceptual life-history framework for extinction risk.
  • Develop an appropriate data set to perform studies on life-history traits.
  • Undertake a quantitative evaluation of the number of plant species at risk of extinction in order to assess the effect of data uncertainty.
  • Describe the traits (and trait combinations) that might be associated with extinction proneness.
  • Identify traits that account best for extinction risk status.
  • Make recommendations that can add value to current conservation approaches.

My research can be useful for:

  • Guiding species recovery plans.
  • Developing management strategies aimed protecting species from ecologically negative processes such as over-utilisation or longer-term effects such as climate change.
  • Identifying areas that consist of a large number of species with life-history profiles that may predispose them to extinction.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge financial support from:

  • Millennium Seed Bank Project, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003-2006)
  • School of Geography, Oxford University: Applied Material Scholarship (2003-2006)
  • Linacre College, Oxford University: Linacre Scholarship/Domus Research Studentship (2003-2006)


Hardcover book:

Golding, J.S. (ed.) 2002. Southern African Plant Red Data List. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report Series No. 14. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria (237 pp.). ISBN 1-919795-64-2.

Peer reviewed journal papers:

Golding, J.S. 2000. Picking up the pieces: Red Data Lists in southern Africa. Bothalia 30:213-214.

Smith, G.F., Steyn, E.M.A., Victor, J.E., Crouch, N.R., Golding, J.S. & Hilton-Taylor, C. 2000. Aloaceae. The conservation status of Aloe in South Africa: an updated synopsis. Bothalia 30: 206-211.

Golding, J.S. 2001. Southern African herbaria and Red Data Lists. Taxon 50:593-602.

Golding, J.S. & Smith, P.P. 2001. A 13-point flora strategy to meet conservation challenges. Taxon 50:475-477.

Golding, J.S. & Hurter, P.J.H. 2003. A Red List account of Africa’s cycads and implications of considering life-history and threats. Biodiversity and Conservation 12:507-528.

Golding, J.S. & Timberlake, J. 2003. The real gulf is between taxonomists and conservationists, but how to reduce it? Conservation Biology 17:1177-118.

Golding, J.S. 2004. Specimen information yields predictable Red List assessments. Biodiversity and Conservation 13:773-780.

Smith, P.P., Lowry P.P. II, Timberlake & J Golding, J.S. 2004. A reply to Smith: The real gulf is between taxonomists and conservationists, but how to reduce it? Conservation Biology 13:954

Golding, J.S., Smith, P.P. and Timberlake, J. (submitted) Data and methodological uncertainties associated with herbarium-derived inventories of endemic and threatened plants in south-central Africa. Conservation Biology

Golding, J.S., Smith, P.P. and Whittaker (2008/in prep.) Herbarium data and patterns in the taxonomy, vegetation affiliation and life-history traits of range-restricted taxa, south-central Africa.

Policy/ Legal Reviews & Reports:

Njobe, K., Golding, J.S. & Wolfson, M. 2001. Biodiversity Priority Area: Proposal on targets, programmes, financing and reform of the global governance regime. National Preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism. NBI, Pretoria (December 2001).

Golding, J.S., Njobe. K. & Wolfson, M. 2002. Position Paper: Biodiversity Priority Area. National Preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism. NBI, Pretoria (January 2002).

Golding, J.S. & Geldenhuys, C.J. 2003. Methods and procedures for the selection of Champion Trees in South Africa for protection in terms of the National Forests Act of 1998 (Act 84 of 1998). Report for the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry. Report FW-02/ 03, Forestwood cc, Pretoria. (July 2003). Consultancy Report.

Izidine, S., Nhantumbo, I. & Golding, J.S. 2004. Integração do conceito Lista Vermelha de Plantas no quadro legal de Moçambique/Integration of Red Data List concepts into the policy framework in Mozambique. 38 pp. ISBN 1-919976-05-1.

Consultancy Reports/ Vegetation surveys:

Cowling, R.M. & Golding, J.S. (1998) An assessment of the plant conservation value and priorities for the Noordhoek Wetlands Area. Institute for Plant Conservation Report Number 9804BD. Consultancy Report.

Golding, J.S. (1999) A conservation value assessment of the vegetation of the Nigeria Way site, Bonteheuwel. MCA Urban Planners Report, Cape Town. Consultancy Report.

Timberlake, J., Golding, J.S. & Clarke, P.G. 2003. Niassa Botanical Expedition June 2003. Report prepared for Sociedade para a Gestão e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa. Biodiversity Foundation for Africa, Bulwayo.

Technical Reports:

Burrows, J.E. & Golding, J.S. 2002. Fern conservation in South Tropical Africa. Proceedings of an IUCN Conference: IUCN/ SSC Fern Specialist Group, held in Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2001


Golding, J.S. 2002. Threatened plants of southern Africa: trends and general recommendations Conference Proceedings: Endangered Wildlife Trust Conference: State of South Africa’s Species, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2001. pp. 51-63.

Willis, C.K., Burrows, J.E., Fish, L., Phiri, P.S.M., Chikuni, A.C. & Golding, J.S. 2002. Developing a greater understanding of the flora of the Nyika. Proceedings: 16th AETFAT Congress held in Meise, Belgium, 2000.


Golding, J.S. 2007. Climate change makes us forget. In: Pambuzuka Forum for Social Justice in Africa.

Golding, J.S. (forthcoming, January issue) African environmentalism, rise up! In: Africa Writing Online.