John Simaika

Senior Lecturer in Aquatic Ecology & Conservation


Dr. John Simaika is a Senior Lecturer/Researcher for Aquatic Ecology and Conservation at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in Delft, The Netherlands. He has interests in both aquatic and landscape ecology and restoration. Dr. Simaika has more than a decade experience working in African rivers, lakes, wetlands and artificial ponds. He has worked on the development of a new freshwater biomonitoring index for South Africa which earned him the Marsh Award for an Early Career Entomologist in 2017.

He has coordinated research on the impact of alien vegetation on the water quality and ecological integrity of streams in South Africa, and held an EU COFUND research project on the comparative assessment of bioindicators of wetland health in Uganda. Dr. Simaika is founder and co-Chair of the IUCN Task Force on Global Freshwater Macroinvertebrate Sampling Protocols (GLOSAM), is a founding member of the IUCN Freshwater Conservation Sub-Committee, and Africa Coordinator of the Freshwater Biodiversity Observation Network (FWBON). He has authored 50 peer-reviewed publications in international journals, two in local journals, five book chapters, and three books. Dr. Simaika is Handling Editor for the journal Conservation Biology.

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Research Summary

Aquatic biodiversity monitoring and biological assessment

Biodiversity monitoring, or the inventory of, and medium to long-term observation of species presences (richness) and their numbers (abundances) are important for informing all sorts of resource management decisions (protection of species, ecological reserves) down the line. How and when species are monitored, how effective different existing indices are, and how much monitoring is needed are major management concerns. Biological assessment shares much of the same raison d’etre, that is to address management concerns, but from the perspective of whole ecosystem status. Species prioritization, which should be based on good observation data seeks to optimize the space set aside for species populations to persist in the land- and waterscape.

Biomonitoing / bioassessment (general)
Simaika, J.P., Bishop, I., Kelly, M. and Castaneda, R., 2022. Freshwater Biota as Indicators of Impact: Case Studies and Examples of the Major Groups in Surface Water Assessment. Pages 20-34. In: Mehner,T & Tockner, K. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Inland Waters (Second Edition), Elsevier.

Stephenson, P.J., Y. Ntiamoa-Baidu, J.P. Simaika. 2020. The use of traditional and modern tools for monitoring wetlands biodiversity in Africa: challenges and opportunities. Frontiers in Environmental Science DOI:

Schmeller, D., M. Bohm, C. Arvanitidis, S. Barber-Meyer, … J. P. Simaika, et al. 2017. Building capacity in biodiversity monitoring at the global scale. Biodiversity and Conservation 26: 2765–2790. DOI:

Bioassessment using the Dragonfly Biotic Index
Vorster, C., Samways, M.J., Simaika, J.P., Kipping, J., Clausnitzer, V., Suhling, F. and Dijkstra, K.D., 2020. Development of a new continental-scale index for freshwater assessment based on dragonfly assemblages. Ecological Indicators, 109, p.105819.

Samways, M. J. and J. P. Simaika. 2016. Handbook of freshwater assessment: the South African Biotic Index. South African National Botanical Institute. pp.224.

Simaika, J. P. and M. J. Samways. 2012. Advances in monitoring and prioritizing riverine habitats for conservation using biotic indices. Organisms Diversity and Evolution 12: 251-259. DOI:

Simaika, J. P. and M. J. Samways. 2011. Comparative assessment of indices of freshwater habitat conditions using different invertebrate taxon sets. Ecological Indicators 11: 370-378. DOI:

Species prioritization (spatial analysis, species distribution modelling)
Simaika, J. P., M. J. Samways, J. Kipping, F. Suhling, K.-D. B Dijkstra, V. Clausnitzer, J. P. Boudot and S. Domisch. 2013. Continental-scale conservation prioritization of dragonflies. Biological Conservation 157: 245-254. DOI:

Simaika, J. P. and M. J. Samways. 2015. Predicted range shifts of dragonflies over a wide elevation gradient in the southern hemisphere. Freshwater Science 34: 1133-1143. DOI:

Freshwater ecology, conservation, restoration (general)

The topic is as broad as the title suggests, and spans all sorts of habitats from natural wetlands and rivers to artificial dams and ponds and not only macroinvertebrates but also fish. Artificial habitats are often regarded as undesirable. However, as my work shows, they do have enormous conservation value, especially if relatively stable and well-vegetated.

Simaika, J.P., Chakona, A. and van Dam, A.A., 2021. Towards the sustainable use of African wetlands. Frontiers in Environmental Science, p.56. DOI:

Railoun, M.Z., Simaika, J.P. and Jacobs, S.M., 2021. Leaf litter production and litter nutrient dynamics of invasive Acacia mearnsii and native tree species in riparian forests of the Fynbos biome, South Africa. Forest Ecology and Management, 498, p.119515. DOI:

Wiener, K.D., Simaika, J.P., Grenfell, S.E. and Jacobs, S.M., 2020. Effects of invasive N2-fixing Acacia mearnsii on sediment nutrient concentrations in mountain streams: Implications of sediment geochemistry for ecosystem recovery. Catena, 195, p.104786.DOI:

Sundar, S., Heino, J., Roque, F.D.O., Simaika, J.P., Melo, A.S., Tonkin, J.D., Gomes Nogueira, D. and Silva, D.P., 2020. Conservation of freshwater macroinvertebrate biodiversity in tropical regions. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. DOI:

Landscape Conservation / Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture seeks to balance productive and healthy agricultural plots with the maintenance of vital ecosystem services as well as the conservation of species. Thus it is more appropriate to think of the agricultural landscape as a mosaic of habitats in which populations of species persist.

Simaika, J.P., M.J. Samways, and S.M. Vrdoljak. 2018. Species turnover in plants does not predict turnover in flower-visiting insects. PeerJ 6:e6139 DOI:

Vrdoljak, S., M.J. Samways, and J.P. Simaika. 2016. Pollinator conservation at the local scale: role of flower density, diversity and community structure in attracting flower visiting insects to mixed floral stands. Journal of Insect Conservation 20: 771-721. DOI:

Magoba, R.N., M.J. Samways, and J.P. Simaika. 2015. Soil compaction and its effect on surface-active arthropods in natural, transformed and restoring vegetation. Journal of Insect Conservation 19: 501-508. DOI:

Citizen science, conservation psychology and marketing and insect extinction

Undoubtedly, humans have pervasive and irreversible effects on the environment globally. Not all is doom and gloom, however, and scientists worldwide are not only documenting decline, but are also providing solutions. Part and parcel of this is to engage citizens in (bio)monitoring, and to engage the general public in conservation. Research in conservation psychology and marketing can help with this.

Conservation psychology and citizen science
Simaika, J.P., M.J. Samways. 2018. Insect conservation psychology. Journal of Insect Conservation DOI:

Clausnitzer, V, J.P. Simaika, M.J. Samways and B.A. Daniel. 2017. Dragonflies as flagships for sustainable use of water resources in environmental education, Applied Environmental Education & Communication 16: 196-209. DOI:

Insect extinctions and conservation solutions
Cardoso, P., Barton, P.S., Birkhofer, K., Chichorro, F., Deacon, C., Fartmann, T., Fukushima, C.S., Gaigher, R., Habel, J.C., Hallmann, C.A., Hill, M.J., Hochkirch, A., Kwak, M.L., Mammola, S., Ari, J., Or, A.B., Pedraza, F., Pryke, J.S., Roque, F.O., Settele, J., Simaika, J.P., Stork, N.E., Suhling, F., Vorster, C., Samways, M.J., 2020. Scientists ’ warning to humanity on insect extinctions 17. DOI:    

Samways, M.J., Barton, P.S., Birkhofer, K., Chichorro, F., Deacon, C., Fartmann, T., Fukushima, C.S., Gaigher, R., Habel, J.C., Hallmann, C.A., Hill, M.J., Hochkirch, A., Kaila, L., Kwak, M.L., Maes, D., Mammola, S., Noriega, J.A., Or, A.B., Pedraza, F., Pryke, J.S., Roque, F.O., Settele, J., Simaika, J.P., Stork, N.E., Suhling, F., Vorster, C., Cardoso, P., 2020. Solutions for humanity on how to conserve insects. DOI:   

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