SEOSAW
A Socio-Ecological Observatory for Southern African Woodlands

About SEOSAW: an activity of the Miombo Network

  • 5385 Woodland plots
  • 12 Countries
  • 248323 Tree measurements
  • 39 Researchers
Woodland

Latest news

  • Feb 2019: New paper on the floristics of Africa savannas published . Fayolle et al 2018, J. Biogeog.
  • Dec 2018: Complete version of the plot and tree protocol now available
  • Nov 2018: New paper on the structure and floristics of the Beteke Plateau published . Nieto-Quintano et al. Biotropica
  • Oct 2018: 11 new 1 ha long term plots established in SE Zimbabwe by Anderson Muchawona (Zimbabwe Forestry Commission)
  • Aug 2018: Francisco Maiato (Herbarium of Lubango) wins National Geographic Foundation support to establish new plots in Angola. This fills a large gap in the network of long term plots.

What is SEOSAW?

The long-term goal of SEOSAW is to understand the response of southern African woodlands to global change.

Key outputs:

1. Novel analyses of the determinants of ecosystem structure and function for the southern Africa region, based on a synthesis of plot data.

2. Standardised methods for plot design and measurement, tailored to the socio-ecology of African woodlands.

3. A long-term regional plan for plot remeasurement.

Rationale

The woodlands of southern Africa are the largest savanna in the world at ~3 million km2 (Mistry et al. 2000) and support the livelihoods of >150 million people (Ryan et al. 2016, but key ecological and social processes are not well understood. This knowledge gap arises because existing data have not been synthesised, nor analysed with state of the art methods. As a result, we currently have no reliable way to understand how this ecosystem will respond to global change.

Shifts in vegetation structure and ecosystem service provision in the woodlands have been hypothesised to result from altered fire regimes, an increasing frequency of extreme weather events, rising CO2 concentrations, and increasing human use. These changes could threaten future provision of ecosystem services to rural and urban people who depend directly upon these woodlands for fuel, food, medicines and other materials, and indirectly via their role in nutrient cycling which supports the region's agriculture (Ryan et al. 2016). Global change is also predicted to increase the carbon stored in African woodlands from 14 to 34 Pg by 2100, a change comparable to the mass of C currently stored in the Congo basin forests (Scheiter et al. 2009). However, there is currently no regional network of observations to evaluate if such changes are underway, and little testing or validation of model predictions against relevant data. Indeed, such models are generally based only on understanding and validation from South African national parks, or other continents, neither of which represent the woodland's functional ecology or social context (Lehmann et al. 2014).

SEOSAW will address this by synthesising data from across the region, and making it easily accessible for regional analyses and modelling efforts. It will also develop a set of standardised methodologies and new collaborations to improve future observations. It will do so by creating a novel partnership of research groups, and developing the intellectual infrastructure to support collaborative research for the long term.

Get involved

SEOSAW is an open network - we welcome anyone who is interested in using the data or contributing new data. Please get in touch via the link below.