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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.

Reflecting on 21 years of NRF-SAEON

Latest Seminar

Title: The importance of forbs in semi-arid savanna conservation, management, and research

Presenter: Dr. Helga van Coller (Ndlovu Node)

Semi-arid savannas are commonly described as having ecosystem types with strongly seasonal plant communities which, in their natural state, have a relatively continuous herbaceous layer and a discontinuous woody component. This herbaceous layer consists of grasses and forbs (wildflowers). Given that the grass component functions as the main source of food for grazers and domestic livestock, assessments of range conditions in semi-arid savannas are largely based on dominant palatable grass species. Consequently, forbs are poorly represented in definitions, range condition assessments, and ecological studies of savanna ecosystems. Furthermore, less attention has been given to forbs and grasses as separate functional entities which are floristically, morphologically, and physiologically distinct. Dr Helga van Coller – a professional development programme postdoctoral fellow, studies the ecology of herbaceous communities, particularly in nutrient hotspots in South African savannas. Her postgraduate research focused on the dynamics of forbs and grasses in eutrophic sodic areas in a typically dystrophic savanna. These areas are considered nutrient hotspots since their nutrient-rich vegetation is intensely utilised by herbivores. This research provided a better understanding of the ecosystem services and functions that forbs provide in these important biogeochemical hotspots. Her current postdoctoral research explores the herbaceous plant communities and nutrient cycling associated with another important source of nutrients in savannas, being the decomposition of the carcasses of megaherbivores. This research forms part of a larger research consortium aiming to answer the overarching question: How do megacarcasses influence terrestrial ecosystem processes? In her talk, Helga will share her knowledge on the various ways in which forbs are important, both floristically and ecologically, and reflect on the rationale of including this life form in conservation, management and research of savanna, and other ecosystems. 

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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