Skip to Content

KNP Scientific Services

Major Programmes

Junior Scientist Programme (JSP)

The Junior Scientist Programme is an initiative by the South African National Parks (SANParks) to train, empower and mentor young scientists from previously disadvantaged groups. The programme is sponsored by the Andrew Mellon Foundation. The candidates are postgraduate students from natural science, conservation and ecology backgrounds. These Junior Scientists (JS) are mentored by experienced Kruger National Park (KNP) staff who provide the necessary support and assistance. Apart from participating in different scientific activities in KNP, the JS have also registered postgraduate degrees with different institutions of higher learning. It is envisaged that the JSP will culminate in the attaining of a Doctoral degree by the candidates. The expectation is that upon completion of this study and mentorship program SANParks will offer the candidates employment as scientists in one of the national parks.


The River/Savanna Boundaries Programme is a collaborative research effort between the University of the Witwatersrand, the Kruger National Park, the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the University of Washington and the University of California (Berkeley). The prgramme aims to:

  1. Enhance our understanding of riparian corridors as elements of semi-arid savanna landscapes, by studying the interactions between fluvial and upland processes and riparian structure and function
  2. Diversify and build capacity amongst future South African and American ecologists
  3. Generate useful information and ensure its effective transfer to Kruger National park manager

Tree grass programme

The broad objective of the Tree/grass Programme is to develop a predictive understanding of tree/grass interactions. This will be done by using site-specific versions of the Rooting-niche and Demographic bottleneck models of savanna dynamics to predict the outcome of various burning treatments. These will be tested by using the Experimental Burn Plots (EBP’s) within the Kruger National Park. A predictive model of how fire influences tree/grass ratios across soil and rainfall gradients could be a powerful management tool. Such a model, coupled to Kruger Park GIS databases, will be used to explore the consequences of different fire policies on tree/grass ratios throughout the Park... Read more...


African savannas can be abstracted to a few-component system: trees, grasses, grazers, browsers and fires; whose interaction is mediated by climate, soil and human use. Observational evidence suggests that savanna systems show two primary bifurcations: a long-term one leading to "nutrient poor" savannas or "nutrient rich" savannas, and a relatively rapid one leading to sparsely-treed savannas or densely-treed savannas. Although transitions occur, the potential range of savanna structure and function within the multi-dimensional environmental space is generally not realized because stable states are favored by a combination of interactions and feed-back mechanisms. In our conceptual and numerical scheme, the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles are closely coupled and determine vegetation type; the interaction of nitrogen and carbon biogeochemistry, herbivory and fire then determines vegetation structure.

Post Flood

The Post-Flood Research Programme was established after the 2000 flood to test emerging concepts of Large Infrequent Disturbances as ecosystem drivers. We first examined how the 2000 flood changed three components of the river landscape: geomorphological channel types, river landscape patchiness and woody riparian vegetation. Subsequent projects examined the response of woody and herbaceous riparian vegetation within the changed river template and considered plant regeneration strategies, plant recruitment and diversity, plant distributions at multiple scales, alien plant distribution, and the implications of the changed river template for animal populations and Strategic Adaptive Management etc. A large set of spatially-explicit data describing the river template and riparian vegetation were generated during the first phase of the Post Flood Research Programme (2000-2006). These data are available for use, subject to conditions specified within a user agreement form...Read more...

Northern Plains Programme

Sponsored by the Kruger Park Marathon club, the Northern plains programme uses the northern basalt plains and the area north of the Olifants as an intensive study site to examine the ecosystem effects resulting from interactions between the most important system drivers; - rainfall/climate, soil fertility/nutrients and herbivores with management actions such as the provision of additional water, fire and fences. The intention is to highlight the links between rare biota [specifically scarce antelope that are rare in the Kruger National Park (KNP)], habitat diversity, biodiversity and ecosystem function and processes. The product of this programme will be a significant strategic contribution to link understanding of ecological processes to rare biota and biodiversity conservation and thus help to understand how the system supports, or fails to support,specific biota.

For the next five years this programme intends to specifically concentrate on the effect of the provision of additional permanent water on the ecosystem, exemplified by changes in overall biodiversity. The decline in the rare antelope is hypothesised to be at least partly due to changes associated with water provision, thus this aspect will also be addressed in this study. This programme is based on the updated objectives hierarchy (as developed by the end of 2003) specifically addressing aquatic and terrestrial objectives... Read more...

Rivers Research Programme

The Kruger National Park Rivers Research Programme (KNPRRP) was a highly succesfull multi-disciplinary, multi-organisational programme aimed at addressing major concerns about water quantity and quality of perennial rivers flowing through the KNP. A key feature of Kruger Park is that it suffers biodiversity threats in and alongside the Park's rivers because of upstream activities in the catchments - all the major rivers arise on the escarpment and flow through several landuse types in the lowveld before the water even reaches the park boundary. The programme ran for the last decade of the 1990's, went through three phases (a startup, a research consolidation phase, and a more practical implementation-orientated phase)...

Mellon Plant Ecology Fellowships

Two rounds of fellowships have already been awarded. The first round in 2002 produced two successful candidates nl: Gregor Feig (MSc) and Bradley Wilson (PhD) both from Wits University. The second round of fellowships were awarded to Corli Coetsee (PhD) from the University of Cape Town and Anthony Swemmer (PhD) from Colorado State University.

The third round of fellowships have now been advertised. Calls are invited for proposals for prospective projects to receive grants in plant ecological studies in the following categories: postdoctoral, doctoral and thesis-based masters. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has made available these grants via the Kruger National Park to advance the status of basic plant ecosystem science in southern Africa, stipends being R35 000 per year for Masters students, R55 000 for doctoral students, and R75 000 for postdoctoral students. Additional funds will be made available for operational expenses. The project theme, to be developed by the student and supervisors, will focus at least partly on the Kruger Park region and must contribute to useful fundamental understanding there.

Flux tower site/biogeochemistry

Net carbon and energy balance of savanna ecosystems in southern Africa - This is a joint project between researchers at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University and collaborators at CSIR in Pretoria, South Africa. Site instrumentation and initial operation was provided by the NASA-Terrestrial Ecology Program.

Available Languages

View large | View layout maps

Emergency Hotline

Report rule breakers and other incidents to KNP's Emergency Call Centre on 013 735 4325

Did You Know?

  • James Stevenson-Hamilton (born in 1867) was appointed the park's first warden on 1 July 1902.