The PCU is part of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. Our unique position on the slopes of Table Mountain is within a World Heritage Site and at the heart of the Cape Floristic Region, which comprises two biodiversity hotspots of global significance, the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo Biomes. We aim to understand plant conservation in the context of landscape change, using a wide range of disciplines including ecology, environmental history, palaeoecology, and social sciences.

Our repeat photography database is the first of its kind in Africa. We also have our own palaeoecology laboratory and fossil pollen reference collection. Since 1995 the PCU has maintained a long-term research site at Paulshoek, a communal area in Namaqualand. Our partnerships with local, regional and international networks are critical to our success.

The PCU’s Vision and Mission statements have been developed in consultation with our students and are reflected below.



To be a transformative, inclusive, African-centred research and postgraduate training centre, delivering world class research that contributes to the fair and just conservation of African ecosystems and the sustainable and adaptive management of landscapes and ecosystem services.


To contribute to the fair and inclusive conservation of African biodiversity and the sustainable and adaptive management of ecosystem services, through excellent interdisciplinary research that brings a past-present-future perspective and that includes the ecological, environmental and social dimensions of landscapes. To provide a supportive, vibrant and inclusive environment that nurtures the skills and passions of tomorrow’s conservationists through undergraduate teaching and postgraduate research.


We also view our activities as transformative. We believe that what we do through our research, teaching and socially responsive activities has important transformative consequences for the individual, the institution, the country and the continent.  Through our research programmes we attract a diversity of students.  While we draw heavily on the pool of students from UCT’s undergraduate and honours programmes many students also join the PCU from other institutions, based on our reputation and our research activities and profiles.