Project Details

In this report, we describe a scoping study for a NASA field program incorporating hyperspectral, lidar, and field observations across South Africa’s Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) including surrounding coastal and marine environments. The GCFR contains two Global Biodiversity Hotspots (Norman Myers et al. 2000)​, has the richest temperate flora in the world ​(A. Rebelo et al. 2006; Esler, Jacobsen, and Brandon Pratt 2018a)​, and has the third highest marine endemism in the world ​(Griffiths and Robinson 2016)​. It also recently experienced its worst drought in recorded history ​(Sousa et al. 2018)​. Our proposed field program centers around the collection of data using advanced airborne instruments including the AVIRIS-NG, PRISM, and HyTES spectrometers combined with the LVIS laser altimeter. These data will be collected by NASA airborne platforms at relatively high spatial resolution ( < 20 m) across much of the GCFR and nearby coastal and marine ecosystems. These remotely sensed data will then be combined with existing and new observations of the spatial distribution of species, ecosystems, and their traits to enable high resolution mapping of biodiversity, functional traits, and three-dimensional structure across environmental gradients and times-since-disturbance. These data will improve our understanding of spatial variability in ecosystem function as well as species abundance and their associated traits. This focus represents an important shift from previous NASA field programs, which were primarily focused on biogeochemical processes. Here, the primary focus is to measure and understand functional, phylogenetic, and taxonomic biological ​diversity​ and how it relates to ecosystem functions and services in the region.

Funding Opportunities


NSF has several opportunities related to BioSCape. In particular, the 2022 NSF Biodiversity on a Changing Planet (BoCP) program explicitly welcomes projects affiliated with BioSCape and includes opportunities for joint funding with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF).  This funding opportunity is focused on projects that use an integrative approach to understand biodiversity from a functional perspective with the use of new technology and team science approaches. From the RFP:

Functional biodiversity refers to the roles that organisms play within populations, communities, and ecosystems. Drawing from the recent literature, the program uses a broad definition of functional traits to include variation at any level of biological organization and considers the role of such traits in ecological and evolutionary processes and patterns including species generation, loss, reorganization, and maintenance. Functional biodiversity also includes emergent properties at all levels of biological organization and functions not directly under selective pressure.

Learn more about the BoCP program here.

In addition, these other programs may be of interest:

South Africa National Research Foundation (NRF) 


This scoping study was funded by NASA project NNX16AQ45G to PI Wilson. The details of this scoping study have been presented (at various stages of development) to several audiences including 1) the 2017 International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE-37) in Tshwane, South Africa, 2) a session organized by the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) titled ​Integrating in Situ and Remotely Sensed Observations to Advance Biodiversity Monitoring, Research, and Applications​ at the 2018 Annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (Washington D.C.), and 3) the 2019 Bi-annual meeting of the International Biogeography Society meeting in Malaga, Spain as well as several NASA Biodiversity Team Meetings. Special thanks to the following individuals who contributed to this study as a discussant, contributor, or reviewer: Res Altwegg (University at Cape Town, South Africa), Andrew Skowno (South African National Biodiversity Institute), Kerry Sink (South African National Biodiversity Institute), Wendy Foden (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Andrew Latimer (the University of California at Davis), Peter Linder (Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich), Guy Midgley (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), David le Maitre (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa), Bob Scholes (Wits University, South Africa), Adam West (University at Cape Town, South Africa), Christopher Trisos (University of Cape Town), Robinson Mugo (Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources and Development). This scoping study has also benefited from the findings of the NASA Scoping Study “From Arboreal to Benthic Communities: the ABCs of Land-to-Ocean Biodiversity Observations” (NNX16AQ34G) led by Erin Hestir (University of California Merced), Frank Muller-Karger (University of South Florida), Kevin Turpie (UMBC), Temilola Fatoyinbo-Agueh (NASA GSFC), Evelyn Gaiser (Florida INternational University), and Jay Sah (Florida INternational University), with contributions from Erik Bolch (University of California Merced), Stepahnie Bolhman (University of Florida), Karen Cummins (USDA Forest Service), Mark Finkbeiner (NOAA Coastal Services Center), James Fourqurean (Florida International University), Daniel Gann (Florida International University), Kristen Kaufman (NOAA Fisheries), David Lagomasino (NASA GSFC), Christine Lee (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Jed Redwine (National Parks Service), Justin Saarinen (University of South Florida), Marc Simard (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), and Christa Zweig (South Florida Water Management District).