16 July 2021
“Southern Cape marine and terrestrial ecosystems have changed dramatically during the past fifty years due to a myriad of factors, including industrial-scale agricultural activity, exponential population growth and subsequent development, invasive alien plant invasions, changes in rainfall patterns, fire and climate change,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).
“Nevertheless, known as the greater Cape floristic region, the area is still home to one of the globe’s richest places in terms of biodiversity, and without a doubt worth preserving at all costs.”
In an effort to track changes in the Cape floristic region and possible species loss through changes in the landscape (for example, invasive alien plant growth, development and climate change), a number of South African and American conservation and academic institutions, in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), plan to deploy advanced technology to map both marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the region.
“Several Southern Cape ecosystems, such as critically endangered Fynbos species, are under immense pressure and find themselves on the very brink of extinction,” says Meiring.
“At the same time, conservation entities and landowners are increasingly collaborating in an all-out effort to preserve what remains of regional biodiversity, and to enlarge the regional conservation footprint through environmentally-friendly actions, including clearing invasive alien plants from rivers, wetlands and catchments to allow more space for species migration and survival.”
“Central to the objective of the study is to obtain a better understanding of the importance of biodiversity to life on earth, how to trace changes to ecological systems and the impact of species loss.”
“The multi-million-rand data collection effort will kick off in 2023, and the project titled, “Marine, Freshwater and Terrestrial Biodiversity Survey of the Cape (BioSCape),” will be funded by NASA.
Photo: Sponsored by NASA, a new project to map marine and terrestrial species in the Cape floristic region will kick off in 2023. The project will be done in collaboration with South African and American academic research and conservation entities. (Photo: Cobus Meiring, SCLI)