Science

Science

WHAT WE DO
The SAEON Fynbos Node aims to develop and promote an understanding of the impacts of, and linkages between, environmental drivers in the changing Fynbos-urban-agricultural ecosystems of south-western South Africa. This aim flows from the SAEON mandate [Link to “Mandate” on corporate page] of “delivering long term reliable data for scientific research and informed decision making; for a knowledge society and improved quality of life”.


To address these issues, the Node focuses on the development of long-term data records [Link to “Data”], core long-term observation sites [Link to “Sites”] and performing experimental and theoretical studies to inform or test global change predictions and improve our data collection efforts. Our goal is to perform and facilitate cross-disciplinary research around different aspects of relevance to the systems we monitor and communicate findings back to society through developing collaborations [Link to “collaborators”] and engaging stakeholders.
Most of our research projects aim to address one or more of the following broader questions [link to “science framework” with Chapin et al figure]:


1) What determines the composition and diversity of Fynbos ecosystems?
2) How do the diversity and composition of Fynbos ecosystems affect ecosystem processes and the subsequent benefits derived by society?
3) How do human activities alter Fynbos ecosystems and the way they function?

To this end, most of our current projects [link to “current projects”] are focused on:
1) Hydrological Monitoring[link to “Hydrology” theme]
2) Climate monitoring [link to “Climate” theme]
3) Vegetation change [link to “Vegetation” theme].

WHERE WE DO IT

The Fynbos region has undergone dramatic changes in land use over the past few centuries, with much of the lowlands transformed by agriculture and urbanization.  The majority of remaining intact natural vegetation is found in mountainous areas that were not considered feasible for agriculture. Fortunately, much of this land now falls within conservation areas. The relatively intact ecosystems and ecological processes in these areas, and their protected status, have attracted several ecological, meteorological and hydrological research and monitoring projects in the past. This has provided a number of long-term datasets, and legacy datasets that can be revisited to develop long-term records retrospectively.



Node activities are focused, but not constrained to, a set of core study sites. This approach offers several advantages. It permits the collection of detailed and varied datasets with regular monitoring and allows the establishment of linkages between data types, making it possible to develop crosscutting analytical approaches that can be used to address bigger questions. In addition, developing focal sites with good background information and data records, well-developed networks, equipment infrastructure and logistical support attracts collaborators and funding. The choice of sites is largely driven by the availability of long-term data records, representivity of the range of environments and biodiversity in the Fynbos region, logistical constraints, and institutional partnerships and support [Link to “institutions/collaborators”].

WHY WE DO IT
The mountainous regions, sites of many of our core study areas, are important catchments, feeding rivers that provide the fresh water that supports all human activities in the region. Changes in Fynbos catchment ecosystems and the functions they perform thus have important implications for socio-economic systems downstream. The SAEON Fynbos Node has chosen to employ a catchment-oriented approach as this connects upland and downstream processes. This allows us to take advantage of existing datasets to explore the spatial patterns of drivers of environmental change while developing a greater understanding of the implications for society.

WHAT WE DO

The SAEON Fynbos Node aims to develop and promote an understanding of the impacts of, and linkages between, environmental drivers in the changing Fynbos-urban-agricultural ecosystems of south-western South Africa. This aim flows from the SAEON Mandate of “delivering long term reliable data for scientific research and informed decision making; for a knowledge society and improved quality of life”.

To address these issues, the Node focuses on the development of long-term data records (read more), core long-term observation sites (read more) and performing experimental and theoretical studies to inform or test global change predictions and improve our data collection efforts. Our goal is to perform and facilitate cross-disciplinary research around different aspects of relevance to the systems we monitor and communicate findings back to society through developing collaborations (read more) and engaging stakeholders.



Most of our research projects aim to address one or more of the following broader questions (read more):​

1) What determines the composition and diversity of Fynbos ecosystems?

2) How do the diversity and composition of Fynbos ecosystems affect ecosystem processes and the subsequent benefits derived by society?

3) How do human activities alter Fynbos ecosystems and the way they function?



To this end, most of our current projects are focused on:

1) Hydrological Monitoring (read more)

2) Climate monitoring (read more)

3) Vegetation change (read more)

Show More

WHERE WE DO IT

The Fynbos region has undergone dramatic changes in land use over the past few centuries, with much of the lowlands transformed by agriculture and urbanization. The majority of remaining intact natural vegetation is found in mountainous areas that were not considered feasible for agriculture. Fortunately, much of this land now falls within conservation areas. The relatively intact ecosystems and ecological processes in these areas, and their protected status, have attracted several ecological, meteorological and hydrological research and monitoring projects in the past. This has provided a number of long-term datasets, and legacy datasets that can be revisited to develop long-term records retrospectively.

Node activities are focused, but not constrained to, a set of core study sites. This approach offers several advantages. It permits the collection of detailed and varied datasets with regular monitoring and allows the establishment of linkages between data types, making it possible to develop cross-cutting analytical approaches that can be used to address bigger questions. In addition, developing focal sites with good background information and data records, well-developed networks, equipment infrastructure and logistical support attracts collaborators and funding. The choice of sites is largely driven by the availability of long-term data records, representivity of the range of environments and biodiversity in the Fynbos region, logistical constraints, and institutional partnerships and support.

WHY WE DO IT

The mountainous regions, sites of many of our core study areas, are important catchments, feeding rivers that provide the fresh water that supports all human activities in the region. Changes in Fynbos catchment ecosystems and the functions they perform thus have important implications for socio-economic systems downstream. The SAEON Fynbos Node has chosen to employ a catchment-oriented approach as this connects upland and downstream processes. This allows us to take advantage of existing datasets to explore the spatial patterns of drivers of environmental change while developing a greater understanding of the implications for society.

Show More