If you’ve ever spent some time mesmerised at South Africa’s Greater Cape Floristic Region, you’d know that it’s a beautifully diverse area, and it seems that NASA agrees. According to a statement released by the University of Cape Town, this biodiverse area is set to be the subject of a first-of-its-kind biodiversity survey conducted by the space agency.
This exciting campaign will see scientists from the United States and South Africa work together to “map marine, freshwater and terrestrial species and ecosystems” within the region.
If this doesn’t sound like the plot of Avatar 2, then perhaps this might convince you. According to Dr Jasper Slingsby, a senior lecturer in Plant Ecology and Global Change Biology at the university, the project will make use of ultraviolet, visual and thermal imagery along with light distance and ranging (LiDAR) technology. Satellites will also be thrown into the mix and will collect additional data that will help map out this biodiverse region.
So, why the Greater Cape Floristic Region? Well, as Associate Professor Adam Wilson from the University at Buffalo in the US so eloquently puts it: “The Greater Cape Floristic Region is a really fascinating place — it has extremely high plant diversity, and there’s been dramatic environmental change over the last 50 years, due to both climate and land use change.”
Wilson states that data collected will not only help researchers understand this diverse area but will aid in improving the monitoring of biodiversity from space. The project is set to take place of six weeks in 2023.