Prof Timm Hoffman

Hoffman, Timm

Prof Timm Hoffman

I was born and schooled in the Eastern Cape, mostly in Port Elizabeth, although my undergraduate and honours degrees in Botany and Zoology were completed at the University of Cape Town (1981-1984). I returned to the Friendly City to start my MSc in 1985 at the then University of Port Elizabeth (now the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) under the supervision of Richard Cowling. I upgraded my Masters and completed my PhD on the impact of grazing on the vegetation of the Sundays River Valley in 1989. This was followed by a year at the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research site at Las Cruces, New Mexico in the USA where I worked with Walt Whitford and post-doc colleague Craig James from Australia. I returned to employment at the National Botanical Institute at Kirstenbosch in 1991 where I worked for ten years and led a national review of land degradation for South Africa. I joined the staff of UCT as the Leslie Hill Chair of Plant Conservation in 2001.



I teach modules in undergraduate courses based on my research experiences in southern Africa. These include courses on the biomes of South Africa, land degradation and desertification, environmental change, inventory and monitoring, and the deserts of southern Africa. I also supervise Honours, MSc and PhD student projects which cover my range of research interests.

My publications

Scientific articles (since 2014)

  1. Forbes CJ, Gillson L and Hoffman MT 2018. Shifting baselines in a changing world: identifying management targets in endangered heathlands of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Anthropocene 22: 81-93
  2. MacPherson AJ, Gillson L and Hoffman MT 2018. Climatic buffering and anthropogenic degradation of a Mediterranean-type shrubland refugium at its semi-arid boundary, South Africa. The Holocene 28(4): 651–666.  
  3. McAuliffe J, McFadden LD and Hoffman MT 2018. Role of aeolian dust in shaping landscapes and soils of arid and semi-arid South Africa.  Geosciences 8: 171.
  4. Cardoso AW, Midgley JJ, Hoffman MT and Geldenhuys CJ 2017. Temperate forest dynamics and carbon storage: a 26-year case study from Orange Kloof Forest, Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Southern Forests: A Journal of Forest Science 79:1-7. DOI:
  5. Cronin K, Kaplan H, Gaertner M, Irlich U and Hoffman MT 2017. Aliens in the nursery: Assessing the attitudes of nursery managers to invasive species regulations.  Biological Invasions 19(3): 925–937.
  6. Davis C, Hoffman MT and Roberts W 2017. Long-term trends in vegetation phenology over Namaqualand using GIMMS AVHRR NDVI3g dataset from 1982-2011. South African Journal of Botany 111: 76-85.
  7. Van Wilgen BW, Caruthers J, Cowling RM, Esler KJ, Forsyth AT, Gaertner M, Hoffman MT, Kruger FJ, Midgley GF, Palmer G, Pence G, Raimondo DC, Richardson DM, van Wilgen J and Wilson JRU 2016.  Ecological research and conservation management in the Cape Floristic Region between 1945 and 2015: History, current understanding and future challenges.  South African Journal of Science 71:3, 207-303. DOI: 10.1080/0035919X.2016.1225607.
  8. White JDM, Jack SL, Hoffman MT, Puttick J, Bonora D, Visser V and February EC 2016. Collapse of an iconic conifer: long-term changes in the demography of Widdringtonia cedarbergensis using repeat photography. BMC Ecology 16: 53. DOI: 10.1186/s12898-016-0108-6.
  9. Okubamichael DY, Jack S, De Wet Bösenberg J, Hoffman MT and Donaldson JS 2016. Repeat photography confirms alarming decline in South African cycads. Biodivers Conserv 25: 2153. DOI:10.1007/s10531-016-1183-x.
  10. Okubamichael DY, Griffiths ME and Ward D 2016. Host specificity in parasitic plants – perspectives from mistletoes. AoB Plants 8:plw069. DOI:
  11. Jack SL, Hoffman MT, Rohde RF and Durbach I 2016. Climate change sentinel or false prophet? The case of Aloe dichotoma.  Diversity Distrib.. DOI:10.1111/ddi.12438
  12. Davis CL, Hoffman MT and Roberts W 2016.  Recent trends in the climate of Namaqualand, a megadiverse arid region of South Africa.  South African Journal of Science  112(3/4): 89-97. DOI:
  13. Cramer MD and Hoffman MT 2015.  The consequences of precipitation seasonality for Mediterranean-ecosystem vegetation of South Africa.  PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144512. DOI: 10.1371/journal. Pone.0144512.
  14. Masubelele M, Hoffman MT and Bond WJ 2015. Biome stability and long-term vegetation change in the semi-arid, south-eastern interior of South Africa: a synthesis of repeat photo-monitoring studies.  South African Journal of Botany 101: 139-147.
  15. Poulsen Z and Hoffman MT 2015.  Changes in the distribution of indigenous forest in Table Mountain National Park during the 20th Century. South African Journal of Botany 101: 49-56.
  16. Green L, Gammon DW, Hoffman MT, Cohen J, Hilgart A, Morrell RG, Verran H and Wheat N 2015.  Plants, people and health: Three disciplines at work in Namaqualand. South African Journal of  Science 2015;111(9/10), Art. #2014-0276, 12 pages.
  17. Masubelele ML, Hoffman MT and Bond WJ 2015.  A repeat photograph analysis of long-term vegetation change in semi-arid South Africa in response to land use and climate. Journal of Vegetation Science 26(5): 1013-1023. 
  18. Reimers B, Griffiths CL and Hoffman MT 2014.  Repeat photography as a tool for detecting and monitoring historical changes in South African coastal habitats. African Journal of Marine Science 36(3): 387 - 398.
  19. McAuliffe, J, Hoffman MT, McFadden L and King M 2014.  Role of aeolian sediment accretion in the formation of heuweltjies earth mounds, western South Africa. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 39(14): 1900 - 1912. DOI: 10.1002/esp.3583.
  20. Hoffman MT 2014.  Changing patterns of rural land use and land cover in South Africa and their implications for land reform. Journal of Southern African Studies 40(4): 705-725. DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2014.943525
  21. O'Connor TG, Puttick JR and Hoffman MT 2014.  Bush encroachment in southern Africa: changes and causes. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 31(2): 67-88.
  22. Ward D, Hoffman MT, Collocott SJ 2014.  The influence of local and global drivers on a century of woody plant encroachment in the dry Kimberley savanna of South Africa. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 31(2): 107-121.
  23. Puttick JR, Hoffman MT and Gambiza J 2014. The impact of South Africa's land reform programme on woody plant cover and rangeland condition within Grahamstown's Municipal Commonage. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 31(2): 123-133.
  24. Puttick JR, Hoffman MT and Gambiza J 2014. The influence of South Africa's post-apartheid land reform policies on bush encroachment and range condition: A case study of Fort Beaufort's Municipal Commonage. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 31(2): 133-145.
  25. Joubert DF, Zimmerman I, Fendler J, Winschiers-Theophilus H, Graz FP, Smit GN and Hoffman MT 2014. The development of an expert system for arid rangeland management in central Namibia with emphasis on bush thickening. African Journal of Range & Forage Science 31(2): 161-172.
  26. Shiponeni N, Carrick P, Allsopp N and Hoffman MT 2014. Effects of root competition and soils on seedling establishment at the ecotone between an arid grassland and succulent shrubland in South Africa. Journal of Vegetation Science 25: 402-410.
  27. Philippon N, Martiny N, Camerlin, Hoffman MT and Gond V 2014. Timing and patterns of ENSO impacts in Africa over the last 30 years: insights form Normalized Different Vegetation Index data. Journal of Climate 27: 2509-2532.
  28. Jack SL, Hoffman MT, Rohde RF, Durbach I and Archibald M 2014. Blow me down! A new perspective on Aloe dichotoma mortality as a result of windthrow. BMC Ecology 14:7 DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785/14/7.
  29. Jerardino A, Wiltshire N, Webley L, Tusenius M, Halkett D, Hoffman MT and Maggs T 2014. Site distribution and chronology at Soutpansklipheuwel, a rocky outcrop on the West Coast of South Africa. Journal of Island & Coastal Archaeology 9(1): 88-110.
  30. Masubulele ML, Hoffman MT, Bond WJ and Gambiza J 2014. A 50 year study shows grass cover has increased in shrublands of semi-arid South Africa. Journal of Arid Environments 104: 43-51.

Books and book chapters (since 2014)

  1. Todd SW, Hoffman MT, Henschel JR, Cardoso AW, Brooks M and Underhill LG 2016. The potential impacts of fracking on biodiversity of the Karoo Basin, South Africa. In: (Eds) Glazewski J and Esterhuyse S. Hydraulic Fracturing in the Karoo: Critical Legal and Environmental Perspectives. Juta and Company (PTY) LTD. ISBN: 978-1-48-511818-3.
  2. Hoffman MT 2015. Environmental change in twentieth-century South Africa and its implications for land reform.  In: (Eds) Cousins B & Walker C. Land divided, land restored: Land reform in South Africa for the 21st Century. Jacana, Cape Town. ISBN: 978-1-4314-0967-9.
  3. Rouget M, Barnett M, Cowling RM, Cumming T, Daniels F, Hoffman MT, Knight A, Manuel J, Parker A, Raimondo D and Rebelo T 2014. Conserving the Cape Floristic Region.  In: (Eds) Allsopp A, Colville JF and Verboom GA.  Fynbos: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation of a Megadiverse Region. Oxford University Press.  Pp. 321-336.

My research

I am interested in how land use practices, particularly over the last 100 years, have impacted on the biodiversity and landscapes of the succulent karoo, nama-karoo and fynbos biomes in South Africa. I use a number of approaches (e.g. repeat fixed-point photography, ecological surveys, experimentation) to develop an accurate account of landscape and biodiversity change. This information informs conservation and management policy and also has relevance for the current focus on the long-term effects of climate change on the biota of the winter rainfall region. I have also established a long-term, interdisciplinary research programme in Paulshoek, a communal area in Namaqualand. The impact of natural resource use on Namaqualand's landscapes is understood in terms of the changing social and economic environments of the region.


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