Professor Sue Milton

BABSc (UCT), Hons (Stell), MSc, PhD (UCT)

Activities and research interests

Lecturer in conservation ecology, arid zone vegetation dynamics and restoration at University of Stellenbosch, Karoo vegetation dynamics, rangeland assessment, land degradation, plant population ecology, seed dispersal, rehabilitation in arid ecosystems.

Sue Milton's career (MSc 1981) at the University of Cape Town began with research on the reproductive ecology and seed banks of invasive Australian Acacias on the Cape Peninsula. After gaining experience in factors influencing the population ecology of indigenous Acacias in savanna and ferns in Afromontane forest, she migrated to the Karoo to research plant-herbivore interactions and the effects of livestock ranching on Karoo vegetation (PhD 1992). Together with her ornithologist husband, Dr Richard Dean and graduate students, she has been involved in studies of plant populations, animals, resource use and seed dispersal in the Karoo and Kalahari, as well as in central Germany and southern USA. She retains a keen interest in processes and effects of alien plant population growth. Understanding gained has been applied to the development of conceptual models of vegetation change and management, the rehabilitation of surface mines and abandoned fields and to assessment of environmental health and grazing capacity of Karoo veld.

Recent peer-reviewed publications


Dean, W.R.J., Milton, S.J., Forsyth, H.P. & Tissiman, D.R. 2015. Fluctuations in bird numbers on sewage treatment ponds in an arid environment, South Africa. Ostrich 86:145-153

Milton, S.J., Dean, W.R.J., Sielecki, L.E. & van der Ree, R. 2015.The function and management of toadside begetation. In: Handbook of Road Ecology, edited by Rodney van der Ree, Daniel J. Smith & Clara Grilo.  John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. London.


Dean, W.R.J., Franke, U., Joseph, G. Gonçalves, F.M., Mills, M.S.L., Milton, S.J., Monadjem, A. & Oschadleus, H.D. 2013. Further breeding records for birds (aves) in Angola. Durban Natural Science Museum Novitates (36) 1-10.

Rahlao, S.J., Milton, S.J., Esler, K.J. & Barnard, P. 2014. Performance of invasive alien fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) along a climatic gradient through three South African biomes. South African Journal of Botany 91:43-48.


Crookes, D.J., Blignaut, J.N., de Wit, M.P., Esler, K.J., Le Maitre, D.C., Milton, S.J., Mitchell, S.A., Cloete, J., de Abreu, P., Fourie, H., Gull, K., Marx, D., Mugido, W., Ndhlovu, T., Nowell, M., Pauw, M. & Rebelo, A. 2013. System dynamic modelling to assess economic viability and risk trade-offs for ecological restoration in South Africa. Journal of Environmental Management 120:138-147.


Belnap, J., Ludwig, J.A., Bradford, P., Wilcox, J.L., Betancourt, W., Dean, R.J., Hoffmann, B.D. & Milton, S.J. 2012. Introduced and invasive species in novel rangeland ecosystems: friends or foes? Rangeland Ecology & Management 65:569-578.

Dean, W.R.J., Franke, U., Joseph, G., Gonçalves,F.M.. Mills, M.S.L., Milton, S.J., Monadjem, A. & Oschadleus, H.D. 2012. Type specimens in the bird collection at Lubango, Angola. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 132:41-45.


Milton, S.J. & Dean, W.R.J. 2011. Changes in rangeland capital: trends, drivers and consequences. In Zietsman, L. (ed.) Observations on environmental change in South Africa. SUN Press, Stellenbosch. Pp. 74-78.

Ndhlovu, T., Milton, S.J. & Esler, K.J. 2011. Impact of Prosopis (mesquite) invasion and clearing on the grazing capacity of semiarid Nama Karoo rangeland, South Africa. African Journal of Range & Forage Science. 28:129-137.


Aronson, J., Blignaut, J., de Groot, R.S. Clewell, A., Lowry II, P.P., Woodworth, P., Cowling, R.M., Renison, D., Farley, J., Fontaine, C., Tongway, D., Levy, S., Milton, S.J., Rangel, O., Debrincat, B., & Birkinshaw, C. 2010. The road to sustainability must bridge three great divides. Ecological Economics Reviews 2010. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1185:225-236.

Aronson, J., Blignaut, J.N., Milton, S.J., Le Maitre, D.M., Esler, K.J., Limouzin, A., Fontaine, C.A., de Wit, M.P., Mugido, W., Prinsloo, P., van der Elst, L. & Lederer, N. 2010. Are socio-economic benefits of restoration adequately quantified? A meta analysis of recent papers (2000-2008) in Restoration Ecology and 12 other scientific journals. Restoration Ecology 18: 143-154.

Child, M.F., Milton, S.J., Dean, W. R. J., Lipsey, M. K., Puttick, J., Hempson, T. N., Mann G. K., Babiker, H., Chaudrey, J., Humphrey, G., Joseph, G., Okes, N. C., Potts, R. & Wistebaar, T. 2010. Tree-grass coexistence in a flood-disturbed, semi-arid savanna system. Landscape Ecology 25:315-326.

Mills, M.S.L., Franke, U. Joseph, G., Miato, F., Milton, S.J., Monadjem, A., Oschadleus, D. & Dean, W.R.J. 2010. Cataloguing the Lubango Bird Skin Collection: towards an atlas of Angolan bird distributions. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 17:43-53.

Milton, S.J. & Dean, W.R.J. 2010. Plant invasions in arid areas: special problems and solutions: a South African perspective. Biological Invasions 12:3935–3948.

Rahlao, S.J., Esler, K.J., Milton, S.J. & Barnard, P. 2010. Nutrient Addition and Moisture Promote the Invasiveness of Crimson Fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum). Weed Science 58:154-159.

Rahlao, S.J., Milton, S.J., Esler, K.J. & Barnard, P. 2010. The distribution of invasive Pennisetum setaceum along roadsides in western South Africa: the role of corridor interchanges. Weed Research 50:537-543.

Milton, S.J., Joseph, G.S., Dean, W.R.J., Ditlhobolo, T. & Cumming, G.S. 2010. Twenty years of rest returns grazing potential, but not palatable plant diversity, to Karoo rangeland, South Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology 47:859-867.

Sharma, G.P., Muhl, S.A., Esler, K.J. & Milton, S.J. 2010. Competitive interactions between the alien invasive annual grass Avena fatua and indigenous herbaceous plants in South African Renosterveld the role of nitrogen enrichment. Biological Invasions 12:3371–3378.

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