Dr Colleen Seymour

MSc Conservation Biology (UCT), PhD (UCT)

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Kirstenbosch

Research Interests

Colleen is an ecologist with a wide array of interests, including community and functional ecology, species interactions and ecological networks, and how disturbance changes these. These studies may focus on birds, plants or invertebrates. She is also interested in biodiversity horizon scanning. In recent years, she has worked in miombo woodland, savanna and arid shrubland natural systems, as well as agro- and urban ecosystems.  

About Colleen:

Her childhood in the Zimbabwean bushveld left her with a deep love of African biological diversity.  She obtained her PhD (UCT, 2006) through happy years in the southern Kalahari, supervised by Dr Richard Dean and Prof. Jeremy Midgley, working on the keystone role of Acacia (now Vachelliaerioloba.  Shortly afterwards, she was appointed to work as an ecologist at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, where she has been based ever since.

Colleen was Chair of the Arid Zones Ecology Forum for three years (2009-2011). Between 2013 – 2016 she collaborated on “NETWORK: Quantifying indirect costs and benefits of natural ecosystems to tropical agriculture”, a European Commission Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme funded project, involving 23 British, French and South African postgraduate students, with colleagues Frank Van Veen (University of Exeter, UK), and Elisa Thébault (UPMC and CNRS, Paris). She was a lead author on Chapter 3 of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Assessment of Pollinators and Pollination Services (2017).  She served as an Associate Editor for the British Ecological Society journal Functional Ecology (2016 – 2020), and is currently an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Conservation Science.

Google ScholarMost of Colleen's older publications are available on ResearchGate, but please email her for recent publications.

Peer-reviewed publications:


Davids, L., Pryke, J.S. and Seymour, C.L. 2023. High species turnover of arthropod communities associated with distinct vegetation patches (“heuweltjies”) in an arid shrubland. J Arid Environments 213:104967. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2023.104967

Henschel, J.R., Milton, S.J., and Seymour, C.L. 2023. Where birds are rare or fill the air: Documenting Karoo complexity: Richard Dean (10 August 1940 - 3 August 2022). J. Arid Environments 2:10500. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2023.105000

Joseph, G.S. and Seymour, C.L. 2023. Anthropogenic disturbance, not topographic dispersal barriers, limit forest and maintain Madagascar's derived savannas. Bull Ecol Soc Am 00(00):e02087. https://doi.org/10.1002/bes2.2087

Joseph, G.S., Rakotoarivelo, A.R. and Seymour, C.L. 2023. A review of Madagascar's derived grasslands: Low palatability following anthropogenic fires may threaten food security. Plants, People, Planet 1-12. DOI: 10.1002/ppp3.10408

Lee, A.T.K., Herrmann, E., Retief, E.F., Ester van der Westhuizen-Coetzer, Seymour, C.L., 2023.  The impact of a massive wildfire event on avian species richness and abundance in an arid African savanna ecosystem. J. Arid Environments 217 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2023.105039

Simmons, R.E., Seymour, C.L., George, S.T., Peters, F., Morling, F. and O'Riain, M.J. 2023. Seasonal movement patterns of urban domestic cats living on the edge in an African city. Animals 13(6):1013. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13061013

Seymour, C.L., Korb, J., Joseph, G.S., Hassall, R. and Coetzee, B.W.T. 2023. Need for shared internal mound conditions by fungus-growing Macrotermes does not predict their species distributions, in current or future climates. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 378: 20220152.


Joseph, G.S. and Seymour, C.L. 2022. Dispersal limitation and fire feedbacks maintain mesic savannas in Madagascar: Comment. Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.4045

Joseph, G.S. and Seymour, C.L. 2022. Why have Madagascar's mammals, despite being closely-related to African open-habitat specialists, failed to radiate into open grasslands? Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14550

Joseph, G.S. and Seymour, C.L. 2022. Are Madagascar’s obligate grazing-lawns ancient and evolved with endemic herbivores, or recently selected by introduced cattle? Biology Letters 18(9) https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2022.0212

Joseph, G.S., Rakotoarivelo, A.R. and Seymour, C.L. 2022. Tipping points induced by palaeo-human impacts can explain presence of savannah in Malagasy and global systems where forest is expected. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.2771

Seymour, C.L., Joseph, G.S., Calitz, W., Henschel, J.R., Ramaswiela, T., van der Merwe, H. and Peters, D.P.C. 2022. Mean height increase in saplings of a keystone woody savanna species over 15 years similar to that over a single season. Ecosphere, 13(9).  https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.4173  

Simba, L.D., Pryke, J.S., Roets, F., and Seymour, C.L. 2022. Interactive effects of rangeland management and rainfall on dung beetle diversity. Biodiversity and Conservationhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02448-z

Simmons, R.E. and Seymour, C.L. 2022. Commentary: Colorful collar-covers and bells reduce wildlife predation by domestic cats in a continental European setting. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10: 943598. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2022.850442


Coetzee, A., Seymour, C.L. and Spottiswoode, C.N. 2021. Facilitation and competition shape a geographical mosaic of flower colour polymorphisms. Functional Ecologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13851 

Dicks, L. V, Breeze, T.D., Ngo, H.T., Senapathi, D., An, J., Aizen, M.A., Basu, P., Buchori, D., Galetto, L., Garibaldi, L.A., Gemmill-Herren, B., Howlett, B.G., Imeratriz-Fonesca, V.L., Johnson, S.D., Kovács-Hostyánszki, A., Kwon, Y.J., Lattorff, H.M.G., Lungharwo, T., Seymour, C.L., Vanbergen, A.J., Potts, S.G., 2021. A global-scale expert assessment of drivers and risks associated with pollinator decline. Nature Ecology and Evolution https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13851

du Plessis, M., Seymour, C.L, Spottiswoode, C and Coetzee, A. 2021. Artificial nectar feeders reduce sunbird abundance and plant visitation in Cape Fynbos adjacent to suburban areas. Global Ecology and Conservation 28: e01706. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01706

Galloway, A.D., Seymour, C.L., Gaigher, R., Pryke, J.S., 2021. Organic farming promotes arthropod predators, but this depends on neighbouring patches of natural vegetation. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 310, 107295. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2020.107295

Joseph, G.S. and Seymour, C.L. The unlikely ‘antiquity of Madagascar's grasslands’: Disproportionately forest‐limited endemic fauna support anthropogenic transformation from woodland. Journal of Biogeographyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14132 

Joseph, G.S., Rakotoarivelo, A.R., Seymour, C.L., 2021. How expansive were Malagasy Central Highland forests, ericoids, woodlands and grasslands? A multidisciplinary approach to a conservation conundrum. Biological Conservation 261: 109282. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109282

Muluvhahothe, M.M., Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., Munyai, T.C., Foord, S.H., 2021. Repeated surveying over 6 years reveals that fine ‑ scale habitat variables are key to tropical mountain ant assemblage composition and functional diversity. Scientific Reports 11: article # 56. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-80077-8

Ndlovu, M, Nampa, G., Seymour, C.L. and Joseph, G. 2021 Plant shade enhances thermoregulation of internal environments in Trinervitermes trinervoides mounds. Journal of Thermal Biology, 100: 103068. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtherbio.2021.103068

Osterman, J., Aizen, M.A., Biesmeijer, J.C., Bosch, J., Howlett, B.G., Inouye, D.W., Jung, C., Martins, D.J., Medel, R., Pauw, A., Seymour, C.L., Paxton, R.J., 2021. Global trends in the number and diversity of managed pollinator species. Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment. 322, 107653. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2021.107653

Osterman, J., Landaverde-González, P., Garratt,, MPD, Gee ,M., Mandelik Y., Langowska, A., Miñarro, M., Cole, L.J., Eeraerts, M., Bevk, D., Avrech, O.,  Koltowski, Z, Trujillo-Elisea, F.I., Paxton, R.J., Boreux, V., Seymour, C.L., Howlett, B.G. 2021. On-farm experiences shape farmer knowledge, perceptions of pollinators, and management practices.  Global Ecology and Conservation 32:e01949. https:////doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01949


Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., 2020. Madagascan highlands: originally woodland and forest containing endemic grasses, not grazing-adapted grassland. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B. 287, 20201956. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1956

Seymour, C.L., Simmons, R.E., Morling, F., George, S.T., Peters, K., O’Riain, M.J., 2020. Caught on camera: The impacts of urban domestic cats on wild prey in an African city and neighbouring protected areas. Global Ecology and Conservation. 23: e01198. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989420307393

Seymour, C.L., L. Gillson, M. F. Child, K. A. Tolley, J. C. Curie, J. M. da Silva, G. J. Alexander, P. Anderson, et al. (2020). Horizon scanning for South African biodiversity: A need for social engagement as well as science. Ambio 49: 1211-1221.  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-019-01252-4

Gillson, L., Seymour, C.L., Slingsby, J.A., Inouye, D.W., 2020. What Are the Grand Challenges for Plant Conservation in the 21st Century? Frontiers in Conservation Science 1: 1–6. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcosc.2020.600943/full

Coetzee, A., Spottiswoode, C.N., Seymour, C.L., 2020. Post ‑ pollination barriers enable coexistence of pollinator ‑ sharing ornithophilous Erica species. Journal of Plant Research. 133:873–881 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10265-020-01226-8

Scherer, L., Svenning, J.-C., Huang, J., Seymour, C.L., Sandel, B., Mueller, N., Kummu, M., Bekunda, M., Bruelheide, H., Hochman, Z., Siebert, S., Rueda, O., Bodegom, P. M. van (2020). Global priorities of environmental issues to combat food insecurity and biodiversity loss. Science of the Total Environment. 730: 139096. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720326139

Kattge, J,  Bönisch, G,  Díaz, S, … Seymour, C.L. … et al.  (2020). TRY plant trait database – enhanced coverage and open access. Global Change Biology 26: 119– 188. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14904

Seymour C.L., Milton S.J., Altwegg R., Joseph G.S., Dean W.R.J. (2020). Addition of Nitrogen increases variability of vegetation cover in an arid system with unpredictable rainfall. Ecosystems 23:175–187. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10021-019-00396-4


Dainese M, Martin EA, Aizen MA, … Seymour, C.L. … et al. (2019) A global synthesis reveals biodiversity-mediated benefits for crop production. Science Advances 5:eaax0121. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/10/eaax0121.full

Jeal, C., Perold, V., Seymour, C.L., Ralston-Paton, S., and Ryan, P.G. (2019). Utility-scale solar energy facilities – Effects on invertebrates in an arid environment. Journal of Arid Environments 168: 1-8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140196318318408

Aizen, M.A., Aguiar, S., Biesmeijer, J.C., Garibaldi, L.A., Inouye, D.W., Jung, C., Martins, D.J., Medel, R., Morales, C.L., Ngo, H., Pauw, A., Paxton, R.J., Sáez, A., Seymour, C.L. (2019). Global agricultural productivity is threatened by increasing pollinator dependence without a parallel increase in crop diversification. Global Change Biology 25: 3516-3527 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.14736

Dean, W.R.J, Seymour, C.L., Joseph, G.S. and Foord, SH. (2019). A review of the impacts of roads on wildlife in semi-arid regions. Diversity 11, 81; https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/11/5/81

Joseph, G. S., Muluvhahothe, M.M., Seymour, C.L., Munyai, T. C., Bishop, T.R. and Foord. S.H. 2019. Stability of Afromontane ant diversity decreases across an elevation gradient. Global Ecology and Conservation 17: e00596. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989418305171

Sutherland W.J., Broad S., Butchart S.H.M., Clarke S.J., Collins A.M., Dicks L.V., Doran H., Esmail N., Fleishman E., Frost N., Gaston K.J., Gibbons D.W., Hughes A.C., Jiang Z., Kelman R., LeAnstey B., le Roux X., Lickorish F.A., Monk K.A., Mortimer D., Pearce-Higgins J.W., Peck L.S., Pettorelli N., Pretty J., Seymour C.L., Spalding M,D,, Wentworth J,, Ockendon N,. (2019). A Horizon Scan of Emerging Issues for Global Conservation in 2019. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 34:83–94. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169534718302714


Dean, W.R.J., Seymour, C.L., and Joseph, G.S. (2018).  Linear structures in the Karoo, South Africa, and their impacts on biota. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 35:223-232 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2989/10220119.2018.1514530

Joseph, G.S., Mauda, E.V. Seymour, C.L., Munyai, T.C., Dippenaar-Schoeman, A., and Foord, S.H. (2018).  Landuse change in savannas disproportionately reduces functional diversity of invertebrate predators at the highest trophic levels: spiders as an example.  Ecosystems 21:930-942 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10021-017-0194-0

Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., Coetzee, B.W.T., Ndlovu, M., Deng, L., Fowler, K., Hagan, J., Brooks, B.J., Seminara, J.A., and Foord, S.H., (2018). Elephants, termites and mound thermoregulation in a progressively warmer world. Landscape Ecology 33: 731-742 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10980-018-0629-9

Mauda, E. V., Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., Munyai, T.C., and Foord, S.H. (2018). Changes in landuse alter ant diversity, assemblage composition and dominant functional groups in African savannas. Biodiversity and Conservation 27:947–965 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10531-017-1474-x

Simba, L.D., Foord, S.H., Thébault, E., van Veen, F.J.F., Joseph, G.S., and Seymour, C.L. (2018).  Indirect interactions between crops and natural vegetation through flower visitors: the importance of temporal as well as spatial spillover. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 253: 148–156 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016788091730484X

Hansen, S., Roets, F., Seymour, C.L., Thébault, E., van Veen, F.J.F., and Pryke, J.S. (2018).  Alien plants have greater impact than habitat fragmentation on native insect flower visitation networks.  Diversity and Distributions 24:58-68 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ddi.12656

Sutherland, W.J., Butchart, S.H.M., Connor, B., Culshaw, C. Dicks, L.V., Dinsdale, J., Doran, H., Entwistle, A.C., Fleishman, E., Gibbons, D.W., Jiang, Z., Keim, B., Le Roux, X., Lickorish, F.A., Markillie, P., Monk, K.A., Mortimer, D., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Peck, L.S., Pretty, J., Seymour, C.L., Spalding, M.D., Tonneijck, F.H., and Gleave, R.A. (2018). A 2018 horizon scan of emerging issues for global conservation and biological diversity.  Trends in Ecology and Evolution 33:47-58. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169534717302896


Nel, L., Pryke, J.S., Carvalheiro, L.G., Thébault, E., van Veen, F.J.F., and Seymour, C.L. (2017).  Exotic plants growing in crop field margins provide little support to mango crop flower visitors. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 250:72-80. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167880917304036

Modiba, R.V., Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., Fouché, P. and Foord, S.H. (2017). Restoration of riparian systems through clearing of invasive plant species improves functional diversity of Odonate assemblages. Biological Conservation 214:46-54. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320717301003

Moxley, C., Lammers, W., van Veen, F.J.F., Thébault, E. Esler, K.J.E. and Seymour, C.L. (2017). A major subtropical fruit pest accumulates in crop fields and spills over to a wild host.  Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 242:102-109 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167880917301470

Morgan, W.M., Thébault ,E., Seymour, C.L., and van Veen, F.J.F. (2017).  Density dependence and environmental factors affect population stability of an agricultural pest and its specialist parasitoid. Biological Control 62: 175–184 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10526-016-9777-5

Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., and Foord, S.H. (2017). The effect of infrastructure on the invasion of a generalist predator: Pied crows in southern Africa as a case-study.  Biological Conservation 205: 11-15 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716308850


Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., Coetzee, B.W.T., Ndlovu, M., De La Torre, A., Suttle, R., Hicks, N. Oxley, S. and Foord, S.H. (2016). Microclimates mitigate against hot temperatures in dryland ecosystems: termite mounds as an example. Ecosphere 7: e01509 https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecs2.1509

Brown, M.J.F, Dicks, L.V., Paxton, R.J., Baldock KCR, Barron, A.B., Chauzat, M.P., Freitas B.M., Goulson D., Jepsen, S., Kremen, C., Li, J., Neumann, P., Pattermore, D.E., Potts, S.G., Schweiger, O., Seymour, C.L., Stout, J.C. (2016). A horizon scan of future threats and opportunities for pollinators and pollination. Peer J. 3:e2249 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27602260/

Seymour, C.L., Joseph, G.S., Makumbe, M., Cumming, G.S., Mahlangu, Z., and Cumming, D.H.M. (2016).  Woody species composition in an African savanna: determined by centuries of termite activity but modulated by 50 years of ungulate herbivory.  Journal of Vegetation Science 27: 824 – 833 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jvs.12393

Geslin, B., Oddie, M., Folschweiller, M., Legras, G., Seymour, C.L., van Veen, F.J.F., and Thébault, E. (2016). Spatiotemporal changes in flying insect abundance and functional diversity as a function of distance to semi-natural habitats in a mass flowering crop.  Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 229:21-29 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167880916302560


Joseph, G.S., Makumbe, M., Seymour, C.L., Cumming, G.S., Mahlangu, Z. and Cumming, D.H.M. (2015).  Termite mounds mitigate against 50 years of herbivore-induced reduction of functional diversity of savanna woody plants. Landscape Ecology 30:2161-2174 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10980-015-0238-9

Henri, D.C., Jones, O., Tsiattilos, A. Thébault, E., Seymour, C.L. and van Veen, F.J.F. (2015). Natural vegetation benefits synergistic control of the three main insect and pathogen pests of fruit crop in southern Africa.  Journal of Applied Ecology 52: 1092-1101 https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2664.12465

Seymour, C.L., Simmons, R.E., Joseph, G.S. and Slingsby, J.A. (2015). On bird functional diversity: species richness and functional differentiation show contrasting responses to rainfall and vegetation structure in an arid landscape.  Ecosystems 18: 971-984 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10021-015-9875-8

Ehlers Smith, Y.C.; Ehlers Smith, D.A.; Seymour, C.L.; Thébault, E.; and van Veen, F.J.F, (2015).  Response of avian diversity to habitat modification can be predicted from life-history traits and ecological attributes. Landscape Ecology 30: 1225 - 1239 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10980-015-0172-x

Recent book chapters:

Reynolds. C., Byrne, M.J., Chamberlain, D.E., Howes, C.G., Seymour, C.L., Sumasgutner, P. and Taylor, P.J. (in Press). Urban animal diversity. In: Urban ecology of the Global South. Eds: Charlie Shackleton, Sarel Cilliers, Elandrie Davoren and Marie du Toit. Publisher: Springer. 

Seymour, C.L. and Joseph, G.S. 2019. Ecology of smaller animals associated with savanna woody plants: The value of the finer details. In: Savanna woody plants and large herbivores pp 181-211. Eds: Peter Frank Scogings, Mahesh Sankaran.  Wiley Book Publishers. 784 pages.

Current Postgraduate students:

Rebecca Cawood (2021- ) Invertebrates and habitat change, can we identify traits that are sensitive to habitat disturbance?  PhD, University of Stellenbosch.

Liaam Davids (2019- ) What landscape features drive ground-dwelling invertebrate biodiversity in the semi-arid Succulent Karoo? MSc, University of Stellenbosch

Aviwe Homani (2018- ) Effects of alien invasive plant species on pollination networks in the Western Cape, MSc, University of Stellenbosch

Graduated students:

Marianté Herbst, (2008) Ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and rooibos production as affected by connectivity to natural vegetation and agrochemical use in rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) farming. MSc University of Cape Town, 117 pp.

Tlou Masehela, (2010). The floral composition and ecosystem services of granite outcrops of the Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld. MSc, University of Limpopo. 114 pp.

Simone Hansen (2015).  How flower visitation of remnant grassland patches is affected by commercial timber plantations and an invasive alien species (Rubus cuneifolius). MSc, University of Stellenbosch, 88 pp.

Lyndré Nel (2015) Effects of a highly invasive plant (Lantana camara) on an agricultural flower visitation network.  MSc, University of Stellenbosch, 73 pp.

Lavhelesani Simba (2015). The effects of mango farming on flower visitor insect communities and epigeal ant species in North-Eastern South Africa, MSc, University of Venda, 63 pp.

Courtney Moxley (2016). The effects of agriculture and alien plants on natural communities of plants, insect herbivores and parasitoids MSc, University of Stellenbosch, 94 pp. (with Distinction)

Alistair Galloway, (2019)  The influence of local and landscape factors on arthropod predator diversity in the Sundays River Valley, Eastern Cape, South Africa. MSc, University of Stellenbosch, 116 pp.

Lavhelesani Simba, (2020). The relative importance of species richness and functional diversity for ecosystem functions performed by dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) in the Karoo, South Africa. PhD, University of Stellenbosch, 2020. 189 pp

Monique Du Plessis (2021) The effect of supplementary nectar feeders on bird-plant mutualisms in the Cape Fynbos, South Africa. MSc, University of Cape Town (with distinction)