Honorary Research Associates

Dr Patrick O'Farrell



   BSc Economics, Environmental Science (UCT) 1994
   BSc (Hons) Environmental Science (UCT) 1995
   MSc Conservation Biology (UCT) 1997
   PhD Ecology (UCT) 2005



Resarch focus

My work focusses on understanding social-ecological landscapes within a development and conservation context. I have explored the area of ecosystem services from diverse perspectives and have worked on the measurement, quantification, modelling and spatial mapping of services flows of the associated ecological processes, and sought to establish the values that people attribute to these within in variety of landscapes. Through necessity this has involved interdisciplinary engagements, developing spatially explicit models and scenarios.  My core conservation interest is to understand how society benefits from natural systems, what factors impact on these, and how we can set about enhancing human wellbeing through informed conservation and land management practices.

I am involved in a number of international think tanks, research panels, and synthesis assessments relating to resilience, ecosystem services, the SDGs, understanding the plural values of nature and human wellbeing. Most notably I am a coordinating lead author of the International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), values assessment. This particular assessment seeks to understand, and report on, the plurality of values that people attribute to nature, towards developing a better understanding of people’s relational and instrumental values. I also served as a lead author on the regional African and Global IPBES assessment chapters exploring biodiversity impacts.

About Patrick

My research career started in 2000 when I was employed as an ecologist at the National Botanical Institute, working on their conservation farming project in the arid landscapes of the Succulent and Nama Karoo. After completing my PhD in 2006 I was employed as a Senior Researcher in the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services research group at the CSIR. I became the research leader of this group in 2014 and served in this role until mid-2019. I now work as a freelance researcher, supporting institutions like the UN, SANBI, OKACOM, and INR. Aside from conservation, biodiversity and ecosystem services I have a keen interest in biomimicry and green technology. I like campervans, cats, Greek food, and waterslides, I dislike capitalism, standing in queues, chocolate with nuts and completing surveys.

Student supervision

• Jared Davis - MPhil (EGS, University of Cape Town), graduated 2012 
• Thozamile Yapi - MSc (ConsEcol, Stellenbosch University), graduated 2013 
• Ryan Blanchard - PhD (BotZoo, Stellenbosch University), graduated 2014 
• Gregg Brill - PhD (EGS, University of Cape Town), graduated 2017 
• Fezile Mathenjwa – Mphil (EGS, University of Cape Town), graduated 2017 
• Luke Potgieter – PhD (BotZoo, Stellenbosch), graduated 2019 
• Quraisha Bux – MSc (EGS, University of Cape Town), graduated 2019 
• Nicholaus Mwageni – PhD (Economics, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam), graduated July 2019 
• Janis Smith – PhD (ConsEcol, Stellenbosch), current 
• Nadia Wessels – PhD (ConsEcol, Stellenbosch) current 

Recent publications

Chan, K.M.A., Boyd, D.R., Gould, R.K., et al. (2020). Levers and leverage points for pathways to sustainability. People and Nature. 2(3), 693-717.

Balvanera, P., Jacobs, S., Nagendra, H., O’Farrell, P., et al. (2020). Science-policy interfaces advance research on ecosystems and people: Editorial of the special issue. Ecosystems and People 16(1) 345-353.

Zafra-Calvo, N., Balvanera, P., Pascual, U., Merçon, J., Martín-López, B., van Noordwijk, M., ... & Cabrol, D. (2020). Plural valuation of nature for equity and sustainability: Insights from the Global South. Global environmental change, 63, 102115.

Jacobs, S., Zafra-Calvo, N., Gonzalez-Jimenez, D., Guibrunet, L., Benessaiah, K., Berghöfer, A., ... & Martín-López, B. (2020). Use your power for good: plural valuation of nature–the Oaxaca statement. Global Sustainability, 3.

Seymour, C.L., Gillson, L., Child, M.F., Tolley, K.A., Curie, J.C., da Silva, J.M., ... & Smith, D.A E. (2019). Horizon scanning for South African biodiversity: A need for social engagement as well as science. Ambio, 1-11.

Sitas, N., Harmáčková, Z.V., Anticamara, J.A., Arneth, A., Badola, R., Biggs, R., ... & DasGupta, R. (2019). Exploring the usefulness of scenario archetypes in science-policy processes. Ecology and Society, 24(3).

O'Farrell, P., Anderson, P., Culwick, C., Currie, P., Kavonic, J., McClure, A., ... & Audouin, M. (2019). Towards resilient African cities: Shared challenges and opportunities towards the retention and maintenance of ecological infrastructure. Global Sustainability, 2.

Willcock, S., Hooftman, D. A., Balbi, S., Blanchard, R., Dawson, T.P., O’Farrell, P., ... & Mulligan, M. (2019). A continental scale validation of ecosystem service model. Ecosystems. March 22:1-16.

Balbi, S., Selomane, O., Sitas, N., Blanchard, R., Kotzee, I., O'Farrell, P., & Villa, F. (2019). Human dependence on natural resources in rapidly urbanising South African regions. Environmental Research Letters. 4 (2019) 044008.

Potgieter, L.J., Gaertner, M., O’Farrell, P.J., & Richardson, D.M. (2019). A fine-scale assessment of the ecosystem service-disservice dichotomy in the context of urban ecosystems affected by alien plant invasions. Forest Ecosystems, 6(1), 1-16.

Potgieter, L.J., Gaertner, M., O’Farrell, P.J., & Richardson, D.M. (2019). Alien plants and criminal activity: a novel ecosystem disservice?. Assessing the Impacts of Invasive Alien Plants on Urban Ecosystem Services, 163.

Bengtsson, J., Bullock, J.M., Egoh, B., Everson, C., Everson, T., O'Connor, T., ... & Lindborg, R. (2019). Grasslands—more important for ecosystem services than you might think. Ecosphere, 10(2), e02582.

Potgieter, L. J., Gaertner, M., O'Farrell, P.J., & Richardson, D.M. (2019). Perceptions of impact: invasive alien plants in the urban environment. Journal of environmental management, 229, 76-87.

Wood, S.L., Jones, S.K., Johnson, J. A., Brauman, K. A., Chaplin-Kramer, R., Fremier, A., ... & Mulligan, M. (2018). Distilling the role of ecosystem services in the Sustainable Development Goals. Ecosystem services, 29, 70-82.

Potgieter, L.J., Gaertner, M., Irlich, U.M., O’Farrell, P.J., Stafford, L., Vogt, H., & Richardson, D.M. (2018). Managing urban plant invasions: a multi-criteria prioritization approach. Environmental management, 62(6), 1168-1185.

Mostert, E., Gaertner, M., Holmes, P.M., O’Farrell, P.J., & Richardson, D.M. (2018). A multi-criterion approach for prioritizing areas in urban ecosystems for active restoration following invasive plant control. Environmental management, 62(6), 1150-1167.

Yapi, T. S., O’Farrell, P.J., Dziba, L. E., Esler, K. J. (2018). Alien tree invasion into a South African montane grassland ecosystem: impact of Acacia species on rangeland condition and livestock carrying capacity. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management, 14(1), 105-116.

Brill, G., Anderson, P., O’Farrell, P. (2017). Urban national parks in the global South: Linking management perceptions, policies and practices to water-related ecosystem services. Ecosystem Services.28: 185-195.

Roux, D.J., Nel, J.L., Cundill, G., O’Farrell, P., Fabricius, C. (2017). Transdisciplinary research for systemic change: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn. Sustainability Science. 1-16.

Potgieter, L.J., Gaertner, M., Kueffer, C., Larson, B.M., Livingstone, S.W., O’Farrell, P.J., & Richardson, D.M. (2017). Alien plants as mediators of ecosystem services and disservices in urban systems: a global review. Biological Invasions, 19(12), 3571-3588.

Brill, G., Anderson, P., O’Farrell, P. (2017). Methodological and empirical considerations when assessing freshwater ecosystem service provision in a developing city context: Making the best of what we have. Ecological Indicators. 76: 256-274.

Pascual, U., et al. (2017). Valuing natures contribution to people: The IPBES approach. COSUST. 26: 7-16.

Willcock,S.,  Hooftman, D., Sitas, N., O’Farrell, P., Hudson, M.D., Reyers, B. (2016). Do ecosystem service maps and models meet stakeholders’ needs? A preliminary survey across sub-Saharan Africa. Ecosystem Services. 18: 110-117.

Reyers, B., Nel, J.L., O’Farrell, P.J., Sitas, N, Nel, D.C. (2015). Navigating complexity through knowledge coproduction: Mainstreaming ecosystem services into disaster risk reduction. PNAS. 112(24): 7362–7368 doi/10.1073/pnas.1414374112.

Blanchard, R., O’Farrell, P.J., Richardson, D.M. (2015). Anticipating potential biodiversity conflicts for future biofuel crops in South Africa: incorporating spatial filters with species distribution models. Global Change Biology Biofuels. 7: 273–287.