National Research Foundation
The Southern African environment is characterised by high levels of variability and biodiversity. Rainfall is a primary driver of the ecosystems, but its high variability limits its usefulness as an indicator of environmental change. Rainfall outcomes are complicated by the timing, frequency and intensity of rainfall events, as well as conditions of surface temperature, humidity, soil, slope and vegetation. These complexities, coupled with differential responses by thousands of species, cause uncertainty about the direction and extent of rainfall-induced change. The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) was established in 2002 after a process of deliberation within the research community. Following extensive consultation with its sister departments, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) took the lead by mandating and funding the National Research Foundation to develop SAEON as an institutionalised network of departments, universities, science institutions and industrial partners. According to the SAEON mandate, its responsibilities rest on three mandates: observation, information and education.