Productivity and stability of forest ecosystems strongly depend on the functional diversity of plant communities. University of Zurich researchers have developed a new method to measure and map functional diversity of forests at different scales—from individual trees to whole communities—using remote sensing by aircraft. Their work paves the way for future airborne and satellite missions to monitor global plant functional diversity. Ecological studies have demonstrated positive relationships between plant diversity and ecosystem functioning. Forests with higher functional diversity are generally more productive and stable over long timescales than less diverse forests. Diverse plant communities show increased resource use efficiency and utilization, enhanced ecosystem productivity and stability and can better cope with changing environmental conditions – an insurance effect of biodiversity.