US and SA part of biodiversity study to learn more about Greater Cape Floristic Region

Scientists collect vegetation data from the Western Cape. Picture: Adam M Wilson/Supplied

Scientists collect vegetation data from the Western Cape. Picture: Adam M Wilson/Supplied

Published Oct 18, 2023


Cape Town - A biodiversity research project has been launched to help scientists better understand the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR).

The collaborative project, known as BioSCape, will link data collected from satellites and aeroplanes with field observations, and help scientists from around the world to better understand the biodiversity of the region.

The GCFR is home to a number of endangered and threatened species, with it being one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hot spots, which are regions with exceptionally high levels of biodiversity and a high proportion of endemic species.

The project is expected to benefit the world by improving an understanding of biodiversity and developing technologies for monitoring and managing nature’s contributions to people.

BioSCape is also a collaboration between the US and South Africa, funded by the US government (Nasa) and the South African government through the National Research Foundation via the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).

The infographic above illustrates how new data will be collected to study biodiversity to better conserve nature and its contributions to people. Picture: Supplied

After two years of planning, the majority of data collection will occur from mid-October to mid-December to coincide with aerial surveys conducted by Nasa aircraft and instrument teams.

Lead South African scientist and lecturer at the University of Cape Town Dr Jasper Slingsby said BioSCape “will help reveal new insights about the biodiversity of one of the most diverse regions on Earth and provide new tools for mapping and monitoring it”.

“This information will be essential for supporting effective biodiversity conservation and management strategies for the region.

“BioSCape will also help us to better understand the impacts of climate change on biodiversity,” he said.

SAEON managing director Dr Mary-Jane Bopape said this project was a testament to the world-class biodiversity research being conducted in South Africa.

“We are committed to contributing to data collection and using the information generated by BioSCape to inform environmental management decisions in the region.

“An added benefit for us during the main collection period is that the SAEON Graduate Student Indibano will host some of the BioScape scientists as keynote speakers and workshop presenters, which will serve as a valuable platform for networking, knowledge exchange, and insights into cutting-edge research and tools,” she said.

The BioSCape science team at a workshop in May, in Grabouw.The team has about 150 people; half from the US, half from SA. Picture: Adam M Wilson

Cape Argus