Conference on Research Infrastructures and the Paris Agreement

Ana López-Ballesteros by the TCD represented SEACRIFOG in the "Research Infrastructures and the Paris Agreement" conference, held in Brussels on 20-21 November. This conference was organized by the EU H2020 project COOP+, a project that promotes a cross-domain collaboration among global and European Research Infrastructures (RIs) in order to face the most important environmental global challenges.

The conference was focused on how Research Infrastructures can effectively support the political decisions towards the fulfillment of the Paris Agreement. Key policy-relevant challenges posed to current research infrastructures in this regard, are: 1) the quantification of anthropogenic GHG emissions using atmospheric observations and models, 2) the provision of robust observations of changes in carbon storage and GHG emissions over the oceans, and from natural and cultivated systems, 3) and the generation of science-based evidence on the resilience of marine and terrestrial ecosystems to climate change and adaptation strategies. However, to address these global challenges, international collaboration among research infrastructures worldwide as well as efficient data sharing and cooperation mechanisms are crucial. The conference gathered the experience of relevant already-implemented international research infrastructures, such as ACTRIS, ARGO, ICOS, Copernicus, TERN, the Global Atmosphere Watch and IG3IS, which both belongs to WMO. SEACRIFOG and SAEON were present to represent, current activities aiming to fill the large observational gaps in the African continent.

The presentation can be accessed here.

Travel grants available to EGU General Assembly 2019 for early career scientists form developing countries

The Global Atmosphere Watch Programme (GAW) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) offers support to a limited number of early career researchers from developing countries to attend the EGU General Assembly from 7 - 12 April 2019 in Vienna, Austria. On this conference, the 30th anniversary of GAW will be celebrated with many activities including the Union Symposium: "From fundamental Atmospheric Composition Research to Societal Services/ 30 years of the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme". Please find the application form here. Application deadline for this travel grant is the 1 December 2018.

The public version of the SEACRIFOG Collaborative Inventory Tool - Now available

The SEACRIFOG Collaborative Inventory Tool serves to systematically capture information on relevant variables, observation infrastructures, data products and measurement protocols. The tool further serves as a public resource, informing about the state of environmental observation across Africa. Please note that 'filling' the tool with metadata on observation infrastructures, data products and protocols is an ongoing process. If you would like to contribute and do not have login credentials yet, kindly send an email to Any contribution towards completing the picture will be appreciated.

To access the tool, please click here.

Start of EMSAfrica – a small step towards long-term greenhouse gas observation in Africa

The Project EMSAfrica (Ecosystem Management Support for climate change in Southern Africa), a collaboration between South African and German research institutions starts this month. The SEACRIFOG partner Thuenen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture coordinates the follow-up project of ARS AfricaE. Wherease ARS AfricaE focused among other issues on the establishment of research infrastructures to measure ecosystem fluxes of greenhouse gases in parts of South Africa; the new project is intending to transfer the research infrastructures into the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON) under the framework of the SEACRIFOG partner SAEON (South African Environmental Observation Network). The transfer will ensure that the research infrastructures, including two eddy covariance towers (towers to measure ecosystem fluxes) will continue working after the project funding ends. Another small step towards long-term greenhouse gas observation in Africa will be reached!

SEACRIFOG contributes to SAEON/EFTEON Workshop on Carbon Research in South Africa

From 10 - 14 September 2018, the SEACRIFOG implementing partner ‘South African Environmental Observation Network’ (SAEON;, together with the Department of Science and Technology of the Republic of South Africa, hosted a workshop to deliberate on the advancement of carbon research and infrastructure in South Africa. Beside SAEON researchers, the workshop was attended by our project partners Johannes Beck (SASSCAL), Ana López Ballesteros (TCD) and Bob Scholes (Witwatersrand University). The workshop took place at Cathedral Peak, a SAEON’s long-term ecological research site in the highlands of the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

The workshop attendants represented the core of the South African environmental research community, who convened to discuss the current state and future of carbon research infrastructure in line with the design of the upcoming Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON) in South Africa. The initial part of the workshop focused on obtaining an overview of the South African observational capacity for carbon research. Both Ms. López Ballesteros and Mr. Beck gave a presentation of their work in line with the SEACRIFOG project (PDF). In the course of the workshop, the main key scientific questions that need to be answered were pointed out, for both the short- and long-terms, as well as the main challenges and enablers for the EFTEON RI development. In addition, the workshop included a field visit to SAEON’s environmental observation sites at Cathedral Peak. The unique grasslands in the Drakensberg mountain range bordering Lesotho play a crucial role for South Africa’s freshwater supply and SAEON’s work at this site is an excellent example of how long-term scientific research is key for understanding, conserving and sustainably managing an entire landscape.

This workshop constituted a very fruitful and enriching interaction between SEACRIFOG project and one of our country partners towards the joined effort of enhancing the African infrastructural capacity for environmental monitoring. It provided important insights to the research activities in the African nation with the best established observation infrastructure to date. Corresponding lessons and protocols can be applied when establishing research infrastructures in other African countries in order to achieve a higher degree of harmonization of environmental observation across countries.

SEACRIFOG collaborative inventory tool for variables and research infrastructure

The overall aim of SEACRIFOG is to develop a roadmap for establishing an effective environmental observation system in Africa. So far, large areas of the African continent remain blind spots in terms of such observations. Several projects or programmes record information that would be important in the context. However, they are typically limited in duration or rather have no long lasting effect and are not evenly spread across the continent. For the roadmap, basic needs for long-term observations need to be clear. It is important to know, which variables are important to adequately evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions and other parameters of interest on the African continent.

Johannes Beck – a SEACRIFOG partner from SASSCAL –tackled this fundamental question. Based on literature reviews and consultation of experts, he started to put together a set of variables using a specially developed web-based collaborative inventory tool. The next step was a distant team working process. Experts of the project consortium gave their feedback on each variable aiming for a set of optimally useful, while at the same time feasible and cost-efficient set of variables. Furthermore, the project partners nominated other experts for more online-input. The full report about the variables rating can be accessed on the SEACRIFOG webpage.

This tool allows the capturing of information on observation networks/infrastructures and existing data products, as well as subsequent analysis, e.g. to determine the spatial coverage of existing observation networks. We consider this web-based tool to be a powerful approach to pool the expertise and facilitate remote collaboration by a large group of contributors. We further expect to draw valuable lessons from this collaborative process to further improve the tool and develop additional functionality. Future possibilities include expanding this approach to other applications. Full access of the web-tool is currently restricted to registered users. Potential contributors such as researchers in environmental science and earth observation are, however, encouraged to register and add their expertise. The tool can be accessed at:

SEACRIFOG's first publication is out

We are happy to announce the first peer-reviewed publication of the SEACRIFOG project! The interdisciplinary paper titled “Towards a feasible and representative pan-African Research Infrastructure network for GHG observations” is published in the special issue “Focus on Environmental Research Infrastructures: New Scientific Capabilities to Address Global Challenges” of the journal “Environmental Research Letters” (ERL). The publication focuses on the approach and first results of the project. We discuss the findings of stakeholder consultation workshops, a rating to identify the ideal set of variables to observe in the African context and an inventory and mapping of existing observation stations in Africa. The mapping confirms the feeling of many stakeholders that observation stations are too scattered across the continent. A correlation between population density and the degree of human disturbance is also shown. The full paper is free accessible here.

Towards a feasible and representative pan-African Research Infrastructure network for GHG observations”

Project meeting 2018 Mindelo / Cape Verde

The SEACRIFOG team met on Sao Vincente/Cape Verde on the 19th and 20th June. The remote island formed a perfect place for us to meet. The island has special importance for the African and European greenhouse gas and aerosol observations. Furthermore, the SEACRIFOG partners GEOMAR and INDP had opened last year the Oceans Observation Centre Mindelo, offering conference rooms, labs and other important facilities for oceanic research in a futuristic building. The centre is a result of a long lasting partnership between the European and African institutions. SEACRIFOG profits from the experiences both partners gained on collaboration and capacity building for sustainable research infrastructures in Africa.

During the two-day meeting, the participants presented their progress and current results, but also discussed the problems they face. Lively discussions supported the scientific and conceptual performance of the partners. At the morning of the second day, administrative issues regarding timelines, reports and communication were addressed, as well as future events and calls. In between all sessions, there was plenty of time to explore the new building from top to bottom and get impressive inside views to devices and techniques used for ocean observation.

During the afternoon of the second day, all participants visited the atmospheric station of the partner Tropos. On a remote, hilly, dry and lava-covered environment, close by the sea, a container village topped by a 30m tower with attached measurement equipment is based. Here, scientists measure the continental background and marine aerosols as well as gases in the atmosphere. Due to the special geographical location of Cape Verde, air masses are transported to the islands with origins from Northwest Africa, Europe, North America and the northern Atlantic. In the containers, sensitive instruments and PCs are stored to process, analyse and compute data from the collected samples.

As SEACRIFOG is also focusing on land use change and agriculture, the second excursion station was an experimental site for a future shrimp farm. Cape Verde imports most of the shrimp eaten on the archipelago. The Cape Verdean, Dutch and Brazilian operators of the farm are constructing the aquaculture side, which is so far the only one on the islands. There are, however, still some challenges to overcome. The SEACRIFOG team was very interested to discuss problems which will appear, when the salinity of the water increases due to evaporation in the huge shrimp basins.

The highlight of the excursion was a visit to the measurement ship ‘Islandia’ holed by GEOMAR and INDP. The ship is currently docked in at the Mindelo habour due to an engine damage, but for all colleagues working on predominantly terrestrial sides, it was remarkable to understand under which cramped circumstances the ocean scientist need to work and sometimes live, when taking samples.

Future research needs in West African – Results of the stakeholder workshop in Mindelo/Cape Verde

On February 7th 2018 a stakeholder dialogue event was held in Mindelo in Cabo Verde at the Ocean Science Centre Mindelo (OSCM). Different stakeholders from Cabo Verde, Macaronesian archipelagos and Portugal participated in a World Café workshop in order to discuss future research needs, knowledge gaps and needs for Capacity building in the West African region. The workshop took place right after a training workshop of the EU Horizon 2020 project PADDLE in Mindelo. Results of this World Café can be found in the summary report below.

Report in English

Report in Portuguese

SEACRIFOG 3rd Consultation Workshop

Side-event at SASSCAL Science Symposium to engage stakeholders from Southern Africa

The Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) organized in Lusaka, Zambia from 16 to 20 April 2018 a Science Symposium with a theme: ‘Science Diplomacy supporting Climate Change Action in SADC’. The Symposium gather variety of researchers and stakeholders from academic, governmental as well as private sector.

SASSCAL Science Symposium 2018 was significant event, where more than 300 key stakeholders participated. As side event of the SASSCAL Science Symposium, the SEACRIFOG team held a consultation workshop on 18th April 2018.

As the African point of view on the SEACRIFOGs goals is of major interest, stakeholders from Sothern-Africa were asked to contribute their point of view during the workshop concerning the topics: 1. Land-use change implications for food security, 2. GHG observations, carbon stocks and climate change mitigation and 3.Capacity development. The workshop had format of participative stakeholder consultation event, in world-café mode, where participants actively discussed the above-mentioned topics. The workshop was organized by SEACRIFOG project partners (CMCC, CzechGlobe, SASSCAL, ICOS, Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture).

Some of the preliminary workshop results are presented below. In case of land use change and implications for food security, the participants identified the economy to be one of the main drivers for land use change. Moreover, they discussed intensively about land tenure system in Southern African countries. A Zambian participant announced: “The system is good, but if it comes to public/governmental level, more land is given to the elites. Indigenous people are led to very small parcels.” Most participants characterized the availability of data about land-use change issues to be insufficient or not well communicated.

Concerning GHG observations and carbon stocks and climate change mitigation, the participants expressed need for in-situ measurements that are currently missing. Due to lack of data emission reporting is often inaccurate.

In case of capacity development in the area of land use change and GHG observations, participants skills and training programmes needed for ArcGIS, GHG monitoring. Students perceive lack of practical training, such as internship programmes that would enrich their education. It was also suggested to support coordination of activities across stakeholders in SADC countries. For instance, in form of a land use change platform that would provide monitoring and evaluation of land use changes in Southern African countries, or platform coordinating GHG observation and monitoring across SADC countries.

The workshop results are currently being analysed and will be further integrated with the outcomes of previous two SEACRIFOG workshops in Eastern Africa in Kenya (May 2017) and Western Africa in Ghana (June 2017), to gain an overview of the pan-African situation. All contributions will flow into the recommendations for an optimal long-term greenhouse gas observational system in Africa.

The SEACRIFOG team would like to thank all participants for the fruitful discussions and the time and valuable insights they shared. Moreover, the team thanks the organizers of the SASSCAL-Symposium for their highly appreciated support.

Call for contributions

EGU 2018 in Vienna and the SASSCAL Symposium in Lusaka, two important events for SEACRIFOG are approaching. SEACRIFOG will participate and the team calls for contributions to the project at the conferences.

Our current aim is to identify set of variables, which are essential to observe systematically climate change and related dynamics in Africa. To do so, we consider all possibly relevant variables and assess them against their relevance, feasibility and cost-effectiveness in the African context (in analogy with the identification of the GCOS 'Essential Climate Variables') using a collaborative inventory tool.

Since this is an open consultative process, your contribution in form of your expertise to rate all variables of possible relevance will be appreciated.

You will find the team at the EGU at the ENVRI-stand (tbc) or during the projects poster presentation on Monday the 9th April 17:30-19:00 hall A at board number A.324. Times and places for the live-rating during the SASSCAL-Symposium will be confirmed soon.

You are not a scientific expert on environmental observation, but want to contribute? Both scientific experts and other related stakeholders participating at the SASSCAL-Symposium are invited to attend the SEACRIFOG stakeholder consultation event.

We are looking forward to see you soon!

Technique developed in Kenya offers a refined way to map tree cover

Scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, recently pioneered a new approach which uses satellite images and maps to show patterns linked to land use and cover change on a yearly basis. Though the technique was developed in Kenya, it can be used regionally and potentially across the world.

Maps consists of an array of both physical and human geographic data in order to explain changes.