AJ Smit
AJ Smit

Welcome to the homepage of the Smit Lab. My lab comprises a small team of postgrads with an interest in the major environmental drivers of coastal marine ecosystems, with an emphasis on the kelp beds of the Western Cape.

To this end, we currently participate in two major research programmes funded by the NRF.

Members of the Kelps and Climate Change team.
Members of the Kelps and Climate Change team. From left to right: Ross Coppin (MSc student), Eric van Onselen (MSc student), Prof. Rob Anderson, Dr. Laura Blamey, Dr. Thomas Wernberg, Derek Kemp, Chris Boothroyd.

The first is Kelps and Climate Change that runs in partnership with Prof. John Bolton (the University of Cape Town, UCT), Prof. Robert Anderson (the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries), Dr. Laura Blamey (UCT) and Dr. Thomas Wernberg (the University of Western Australia). Some of the questions addressed by the project include:

  • What environmental and ecological factors best explain the distribution of these kelp species?
  • What ecophysiological characteristics of the kelp species, life history stages, and forms interact with ecological and climatically-driven environmental variables to influence kelp distribution across the transition?
  • How do the distributions of associated organisms change in response to kelp species change (or vice versa), kelp form variation, grazer prevalence?
  • How might kelp distribution be projected to change in the future from global climate change scenarios?
  • Do other species show evidence of change in distribution in line with kelp changes?
A profile of the South African coastal temperature gradient.
A profile of the South African coastal temperature gradient.

The second research programme is the Thermal Characteristics of the South African Nearshore with Prof. Bolton and Dr. Tommy Bornman (the South African Environmental Observation Network) as co-investigators. Aims are:

  • What is the nature of the variability in terms of its oceanographic drivers in space/time?
  • How does mesoscale oceanic forcing influence seawater temperature properties/processes less than 400 m from the coastline?
  • What is the cause of the biases between in situ temperatures and that measured by satellites? How do we relate our new understanding of the thermal properties of the nearshore to
  • biogeographic and ecological outcomes?



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