Climate change response in the endemic avifauna of the Fynbos

The Fynbos biome of South Africa is a global biodiversity hotspot. Famous mostly for its floral diversity, it is also home to seven endemic bird species. Fynbos is found from the mountains to the coast in the southwestern corner of South Africa, occurring within a Mediterranean climate zone. Climate warming in the Fynbos has been non-uniform to date with inland mountainous areas showing the strongest warming trends.


The Hot Birds project made its first foray into the Fynbos in 2013, where the Cape Rockjumper was found to be particularly vulnerable to climate warming, as well as drawing attention to the complexity of making predictions about vulnerability using physiological data alone. While the majority of the Hot Birds research coming from the Fynbos has continued to revolve around the Cape Rockjumper as a focal species, additional research involves monitoring abundance and diversity of avifauna across the biome. Current projects in the Fynbos are aimed at improving our knowledge of behavioural and physiological responses to heat of Mediterranean-zone birds, and how these compare to the data coming out of the Kalahari and our other desert field sites. 


Main partners on Fynbos projects are Susan Cunningham (FitzPatrick Institute), Phoebe Barnard (Pacific Biodiversity Institute), Alan Lee (Blue Hill Nature Reserve) and Ben Smit (Rhodes University).

Fynbos, Cape Rockjumper

Current Projects

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Completed Projects


Krista Oswald (Ph.D.)

Thesis: Vulnerability of a Fynbos-endemic bird to climate warming: insights from past and present responses to high temperatures

Supervisors: Dr Ben Smit, Dr Alan LeeDr Susan Cunningham, Dr Shelley Edwards


Mokgatla Jerry Molepo (M.Sc.)


Thesis: Foraging behaviour and thermal physiology of Cape Sugarbirds; sex-specific responses to temperature


Supervisor: Dr. Ben Smit, Dr. Alan Lee, Dr. Susan Cunningham


Krista Oswald (M.Sc.)


Thesis: Seasonal physiological responses in the Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus): a Fynbos endemic shows limited capacity to cope with temperature extremes


Supervisors: Dr. Ben Smit, Dr. Alan Lee


Robyn Milne (MSc.)

Thesis: Physiological tolerances of high temperatures in Fynbos birds: implications for climate change


Supervisors: Prof. Peter Ryan, Dr. Susan Cunningham, Dr. Alan Lee, Dr. Ben Smit