Colorado mountains

A southern hemisphere observatory – building on seventy five years of environmental data

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Nicky Allsopp
Victoria Goodall
Abri de Buys
Jasper Slingsby

The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) took over responsibility for the monitoring of streamflow in the Jonkershoek Valley in 2009.  The Jonkershoek catchment experiments, situated in mountains delivering the bulk of Cape Town’s water, were established in 1937.  The dominant vegetation at the site, Fynbos, is globally unique and highly diverse.  Data from several vegetation studies, associated with experimental fire regimes, are also available from the 1970-80s.  Along with weather data, these vegetation data offer unrivalled opportunities for identifying impacts of climate change on catchment hydrological and ecological function in the southern hemisphere.  SAEON is planning to use this legacy of data to understand the interrelationship between vegetation (cover, function and composition) and catchment hydrology and water delivery in a changing world.  To this end we are extending the array of equipment in the field to get a better understanding of soil moisture dynamics and precipitation inputs over an altitudinal gradient.  Revisiting old vegetation surveys and collecting data on plant traits will form a basis for understanding plant function in a fire prone environment where post-fire recovery may reflect long-term environmental change.  We hope to use fine-scale, high frequency remote sensing products to scale up the application of these results to infer post-fire vegetation recovery profiles.

Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER