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World-class environmental research platforms for a sustainable society


South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) is a long-term environmental observation and research facility of the National Research Foundation (NRF). SAEON’s three focus areas are environmental observation, data management and education outreach. The Department of Science and Innovation provides core funding for these activities. 

SAEON has a distributed network of seven nodes, two research infrastructures and a national office. The research network covers the major terrestrial and marine ecosystems in South  Africa and supports well over 100 researchers and students a year.

Latest Seminar

Title: Wicked problems in the Maputaland Coastal Plain: A case for using Social ecological systems approaches and the need for transdisciplinary integration

Presenter: Sue van Rensburg (Grasslands, Wetlands and Forests Node)

The Lake Sibaya catchment within catchment W70A  is a unique wetland-rich, groundwater driven system with no surface rivers importing water into it. It is entirely dependent on localized rainfall for recharge. This Strategic Ground  Water Source Area (SWSA) resource, on which local communities rely, has been declining over the last 20 years. Competition for water for human consumption, the environment, tourism, agriculture and forestry are increasing.  Recent studies have indicated a combination of below average rainfall and forestry are contributing to this decline. While people in the region are aware that forestry has a negative effect on the water table, the existing conditions and perceptions make it very difficult to identify and shift towards attractive economic alternatives. 

We are currently undertaking a WRC funding project that aims to use a social ecological systems approach to develop a decision-support tool that explores the net economic and environmental consequences of different economic and land-use choices under different climate scenarios as an initial step in transgressing perceived constraints. The intention is to use this as an engagement tool, working with communities  to co-create awareness regarding the interactions of climate, land use and the water resource on the net economic well-being of the region. 

We report on the upfront multidisciplinary integration required to develop a system-wide resource economics model, which incorporates appropriately scaled climatological, landcover and hydrological components to assess the net impact of current and future land use and climate on this sensitive region. Results from engagements with community leaders on challenges, economic activities and aspirational land use scenarios are presented. These point towards potential self-determined actionable alternatives for the region. Preliminary analysis from household surveys demonstrate commonalities as well as divergent responses relating to geographical position and access to alterative economic activities, such as ecotourism operations, with the system.

Latest Training Workshop

GIS for Educators and Learners: free online learning programme aligned to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements.

Presenters: Kogie Govender, Caitlin Ransom, Keneilwe Hlahane, and Rion Lerm

Our Research Nodes

SAEON encompasses seven Research Nodes throughout South Africa and a National Office that is located in the country’s political capital of Pretoria. 

Research Infrastructures​

SAEON manages three research infrastructures developed by the Department of Science and Innovation as part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR).

EFTEON aims to provide and operate a network of instrumented landscape-level platforms for the South African environmental research community, focused on socially relevant terrestrial landscapes and their coupled hydrological systems. 

The SMCRI provides an array of instruments and physical research platforms around the coast of South Africa and its sub-antarctic islands to collect long-term reliable data for scientific research to help decision makers formulate appropriate environmental policies to lessen the risk and vulnerability of the coastal zone to climate and global change.

The SAPRI is designed as a consortium hosted at the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). The ultimate objective of SAPRI is to enable balanced research growth across the polar disciplines, and to maintain and further expand the world-class long-term observational datasets already established.

SAEON facilitates and conducts research through platforms and these have grown into a diverse array of sites, instruments, infrastructure, datasets, models and staff, widely distributed across both marine and terrestrial environments. 


The SAEON Data Portal is getting better and better!

The current release of the SAEON Data Portal allows for searching SAEON’s data, generating citations in any conceivable format, visualising GIS data on a map, and of course, downloading datasets for further analysis. At its core, the SAEON Data Portal is a search engine.

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