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



Research interests

My work focusses on understanding social-ecological systems 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 a 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 have developed a number of monitoring and evaluation protocols for landscapes, underpinning green and ecological infrastructure, and ecosystem services, which identify headline indicators and variables for consideration, for both spatial and non-spatial data collection, and biophysical and social data. I have also designed and executed numerous sampling strategies linked to ecosystem service assessment. In addition, I have training and experience in the use of a number of modelling tools for the analysis and manipulation of captured data for land use coordination and planning. These approaches and tools are critical for both the establishment of baseline knowledge, to inform ongoing monitoring, as well as projection and extrapolation, where there is insufficient primary data.

I have been, and continue to be, 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 am currently employed as a Principal Consultant at Anchor Environmental Consultants in Cape Town (  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) Submitted July 2019 

• Janis Smith – PhD (ConsEcol, Stellenbosch), current 

• Nadia Wessels – PhD (ConsEcol, Stellenbosch) current 

Recent Publications

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

Seymour, C.L., Gillson, L., Child, M.F., Tolley, K.A., Curie, J.C., da Silva, J.M., Alexander, G.J., Anderson, P.M., Downs, C.T., Egoh, B.N., Ehlers Smith, D.A., Ehlers Smith, Y.C., Esler, K.J., O’Farrell, P.J., Skowno, A.L., Suleman, E. and Veldtman, R. (In Press). Horizon scanning for South African biodiversity: A need for social engagement as well as science. Ambio

O’Farrell, P., Anderson, P., Culwick, P., Currie, P., Kavonic, J., McClure, A., Ngenda, G., Sinnott, E., Sitas, N., Washbourne, C-L., Audouin, M., Blanchard, R., Egoh, B., Goodness, J., Kotzee, I., Sanya, T., Stafford, W. and Wong, G. (In Press). Towards resilient African cities: shared challenges and opportunities towards the retention and maintenance of ecological infrastructure. Global Sustainability

Potgieter, L. J., Gaertner, M., O'Farrell, P. J. and Richardson, D. M. (In press). Does vegetation structure influence criminal activity? Insights from Cape Town, South Africa. Frontiers of Biogeography

Sitas, N. et al. (In Press). Exploring the usefulness of scenario archetypes in science-policy processes: experience across IPBES assessments. Ecology and Society

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

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

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

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

Potgieter, L. J., Gaertner, M., Irlich, U. M., O’Farrell, P. J., Stafford, L., Vogt, H. and 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. and 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. 

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

Yapi, T. S., O’Farrell, P. J., Dziba, L. E. and 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. and 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. and Fabricius, C. (2017). Transdisciplinary research for systemic change: who to learn with, what to learn about and how to learn. Sustainability Science, 1-16. 

Brill, G., Anderson, P. and 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. 

Hudson, N.H., et al. (2017). The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) project. Ecology and Evolution, 7(1): 145-188. 

Potgieter, L.J., Gaertner, M., Kueffer, C., Larson, B.M.H., Livingstone, S.W., O’Farrell, P.J. and 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. 

Willcock,S., Hooftman, D., Sitas, N., O’Farrell, P., Hudson, M.D. and, 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 and 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. and 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.