This Envisat radar image captures the Western Cape Province in South Africa, host of the 2010 World Cup. Cape Town, a World Cup host city and the capital of the province, is seen in white and pink on the northern end of Cape Peninsula, which juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are located on the peninsula’s southern end.
The majority of the area seen in this image is a botanical wonderland – the Cape floral kingdom. There are only five other floral kingdoms on Earth: the Antarctic, Australasian, Boreal, Neotropic and Palaeotropic. According to the World Wildlife Fund, this unique plant kingdom is more diverse botanically than the richest tropical rainforests, including the Amazon in South America.
The area covers slightly less than 90 000 sq km (roughly the size of Portugal) of the Cape’s total area of 129 370 sq km (roughly the size of Greece). The fynbos biome (bright purple, teal green and baby blue areas) comprises the majority of the kingdom.
Many fynbos – a collection of plants dominated by evergreen, hard-leaved and flowering shrubs – depend on a cycle of fires for their survival, as the heat germinates their seeds and prevents them from degenerating. The fynbos currently faces threats from agriculture, invasive alien plants, urbanisation and climate change.
Robben Island, where Nobel Laureate and former South African President Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for decades, is visible off the coast of Cape Town. The Western Cape is the meeting point of the cold Atlantic Ocean, to the west, and the warm Indian Ocean, to the south.
This image was created by combining three Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar acquisitions (3 June 2010, 29 April 2010 and 25 March 2010) taken over the same area. The colours in the image result from changes in the surface that occurred between acquisitions.