EGU21-12808, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

South African Land Degradation Monitor (SALDI) – An overview of recent advancements

Jussi Baade1, Christiane Schmullius2, Marcel Urban2, Harald Kunstmann3, Patrick Laux3, Zhenyu Zhang3, Christoph Glotzbach4, Ursula Gessner5, Andreas Hirner5, Pawel Kluter6, Insa Otte6, Ilse Aucamp7, George Chirima8, Mohammed Abd Elbasit8, Theunis Morgenthal9, Izak Smit10, Tercia Strydom10, Jay J. Le Roux11, Graham von Maltitz12, and Thandi Msibe13
Jussi Baade et al.
  • 1Physical Geography, Department of Geography, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Jena, Germany (
  • 2Earth Observation, Department of Geography, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Jena, Germany
  • 3Institute of Geography, University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany
  • 4Department of Geoscience, University Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
  • 5Earth Observation Center (EOC), German Aerospace Center (DLR), Wessling, Germany
  • 6Department of Remote Sensing, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
  • 7Equispectives Research & Consulting Services, Erasmuskloof, South Africa
  • 8Institute for Soil Climate and Water, Agricultural Research Council (ARC-ISCW), Pretoria, South Africa
  • 9Directorate: Land Use and Soil Management, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Pretoria, South Africa
  • 10Scientific Services, Savanna and Arid Regions, South African National Parks (SANPARKs), Skukuza, South Africa
  • 11Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
  • 12Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa
  • 13Eskom, Planning and GIS CoE, Halfway House, Midrand, South Africa

For many decades the problem of land degradation has been an issue in South Africa. This is mainly due to the high variability of the mostly semi-arid climatic conditions providing a challenging environmental setting. Strong population growth and resulting socio-economic pressure on land resources aggravate the situation. Thus, reaching a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), like achieving food security (#2), access to clean water (#6), and the sustainable use of terrestrial (#15) and marine (#14) resources represents a challenge.

In South Africa, land degradation has been linked to the terms veld degradation and soil degradation and has been addressed by numerous measures over the past decades. However, there is still uncertainty on the extent of human induced land degradation as compared to periodic climate induced land surface property changes. In cooperation with South African institutions and stakeholders the overarching goal of SALDi is to implement novel, adaptive, and sustainable tools for assessing land degradation in multi-use landscapes. Building upon the state of the art in land degradation assessments, the project aims to advance current methodologies by innovatively incorporating inter-annual and seasonal variability in a spatially explicit approach. SALDi takes advantage of the emerging availability of high spatio-temporal resolution Earth observation data (e.g. Copernicus Sentinels, DLR TanDEM-X, NASA/USGS Landsat), growing sources of in-situ data and advancements in modelling approaches.

SALDi focusses on six study sites representing a major climate gradient from the (humid) winter-rainfall region in the SW across the (semi-arid) year-round rainfall to the (very humid) summer-rainfall region in the NE. The sites cover also different geological conditions and different agricultural practices. These include commercial, rain-fed and irrigated cropland, free-range cattle and sheep farming as well as communal and subsistence farming. Protected areas within our study regions represent benchmark sites, providing a foundation for baseline trend scenarios, against which climate-driven ecosystem-service dynamics of multi-used landscapes (cropland, rangeland, forests) will be evaluated.

The aim of this presentation is to provide an overview of recent activities and advancements in the three thematic fields addressed by the project:

i) to develop an automated system for high temporal frequency (bi-weekly) and spatial resolution (10 to 30 m) change detection monitoring of ecosystem service dynamics,

ii) to develop, adapt and apply a Regional Earth System Model (RESM) to South Africa and investigate the feedbacks between land surface properties and the regional climate,

iii) to advance current soil degradation process assessment tools for soil erosion.

A number of additional SALDi team member presentations will provide detailed information on current developments.

How to cite: Baade, J., Schmullius, C., Urban, M., Kunstmann, H., Laux, P., Zhang, Z., Glotzbach, C., Gessner, U., Hirner, A., Kluter, P., Otte, I., Aucamp, I., Chirima, G., Abd Elbasit, M., Morgenthal, T., Smit, I., Strydom, T., Le Roux, J. J., von Maltitz, G., and Msibe, T.: South African Land Degradation Monitor (SALDI) – An overview of recent advancements, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12808,, 2021.

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