Bheka Nxele


I am an Ecologist by qualification, with a BSc. Degree in Plant Bio- & Molecular Technology, obtained through the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Whilst at UKZN, I further obtained an Honours Degree in Molecular Biology where I researched the micro-propagation of Dierama luteoalbidum. After the completion of my Honours Degree, I moved on to the University of Stellenbosch where I did an MSc. Degree in Conservation Ecology, looking at Population Genetics of Bush-encroaching Acacia mellifera, in Pniel, near Kimberley, (northern Cape).

Current Research

In South Africa it is a legislated requirement for local authorities to put measures in place for controlling Invasive Alien Species (IAS) within their respective jurisdictions. Different implementing agents apply a number of IAS control methods, or a combination thereof, for the management of the unwanted, invasive species. The focus of my research will solely be on the Invasive Alien Plant (IAP) component of IAS, and will be focused on the eThekwini bioregion. For South Africa, in 2009 the Minister of Environmental Affairs declared each district municipality to be a bioregion. This was done in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEM:BA, Act. No. 10 of 2004). As per this piece of legislation, in 2008 the Environmental Planning & Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) of eThekwini Municipality established specific large-scale programmes to manage IAPs, as well as to restore the ecological infrastructure, within the eThekwini bioregion. Such large-scale programmes include the likes of Working for Ecosystems (WFE); Fire & Invasives Species Control (FISC) programmes; Community Reforestation Programme (CRP).

Among other methods of IAP control, applied within these large-scale programmes, is herbicide application. After just over a decade of continuous IAP control, chemical application will be evaluated through this research. A Mixed-Method approach, in looking at some of the lessons learnt through the sustained chemical application, will be applied. A quantitative study on vegetation recruitment, post and during active chemical application, will be undertaken. This will be compared to areas where other methods of IAP control but chemical application, are used. The study will also quantitatively assess the impacts of chemical treatments, on edaphic soils, and how such might affect soil productivity.

Finally, a qualitative study will also be conducted on the perceptions of people who live in and around areas where there is IAP control. This will be done to evaluate how locals perceive the impacts of large-scale programmes aimed at both improving ecosystem functionality as well as safeguarding ecosystem services generated in areas where large-scale programmes are implemented.