Opportunities for an African greenhouse gas observation system

Lutz Merbold*, Robert J. Scholes, Manuel Acosta, Johannes Beck, Antonio Bombelli, Bjoern Fiedler, Elisa Grieco, Joerg Helmschrot, Wim Hugo, Ville Kasurinen, Dong Gill Kim, Arne Körtzinger, Sonja Leitner, Ana López-Ballesteros, Mylene Ndisi, Aecia Nickless, Emmanuel Salmon, Matthew Saunders, Ingunn Skjelvan, Alexander T. VermeulenWerner L. Kutsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Global population projections foresee the biggest increase to occur in Africa with most of the available uncultivated land to ensure food security remaining on the continent. Simultaneously, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise due to ongoing land use change, industrialisation, and transport amongst other reasons with Africa becoming a major emitter of greenhouse gases globally. However, distinct knowledge on greenhouse gas emissions sources and sinks as well as their variability remains largely unknown caused by its vast size and diversity and an according lack of observations across the continent. Thus, an environmental research infrastructure—as being setup in other regions—is more needed than ever. Here, we present the results of a design study that developed a blueprint for establishing such an environmental research infrastructure in Africa. The blueprint comprises an inventory of already existing observations, the spatial disaggregation of locations that will enable to reduce the uncertainty in climate forcing’s in Africa and globally as well as an overall estimated cost for such an endeavour of about 550 M€ over the next 30 years. We further highlight the importance of the development of an e-infrastructure, the necessity for capacity development and the inclusion of all stakeholders to ensure African ownership.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number4
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgement is also given to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for contributing to this research by supporting SASSCAL. Alecia Nickless acknowledges the support received from Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Methane Observations and Yearly Assessments programme (MOYA, NE/N016548/1). Manuel Acosta acknowledges the support received for by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic within the CzeCOS program (grant number LM2018123). Ana Lopez-Ballesteros was additionally supported by a Juan de la Cierva-Formación postdoctoral contract from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (FJC2018-563 038192-I) and through the BC3 María de Maeztu excellence accreditation (MDM-2017-0714). We thank Veronika Jorch for critical comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the European Commission through the project ‘Supporting EU-African Cooperation on Research Infrastructures for Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Observations’ (SEACRIFOG; project ID 730995). Lutz Merbold and Sonja Leitner acknowledge the support received for CGIAR Fund Council, Australia (ACIAR), Irish Aid, the European Union, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK, USAID and Thailand and the support provided by the Programme for Climate-Smart Livestock (PCSL) implemented by GIZ and commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany. Björn Fiedler and Arne Körtzinger acknowledge support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework of WASCAL (grant no. 01LG1805A).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Climate
  • Environmental research infrastructure
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide


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