Scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are working on developing high-resolution predictive and observational capabilities to support decision-making in South African territorial seas and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
This would assist South Africa in reaching the Operation Phakisa goal of growing the oceans economy by R20-billion by 2019.
To reach this goal, South Africa would get high-resolution earth observation and forecasting capabilities to provide the right information at the appropriate scales for the entire EEZ.
CSIR oceanographer Dr Björn Backeberg said the current models used to predict oceanic processes were too low-resolution to provide accurate information in support of risk and disaster management in oceans.
“The CSIR was currently capable of modelling the big picture of oceanic processes, but the capabilities to provide high-resolution, usable information of the EEZ and territorial seas is currently lacking,” he explained.
He added that the highest economic value marine domains were those closest to the coast – where there was the greatest human activity and infrastructure, “but currently these domains are poorly served”.
“South Africa is not generating any information on those parts of the ocean because the capabilities and model development to do so does not exist. Therefore, the CSIR’s investment in high-resolution ocean modelling and earth observation capabilities represents very high economic and scientific value,” he said.
This initiative would add value to both the CSIR’s Earth System Model and the Operation Phakisa-related Oceans and Coastal Information Management Systems (OCIMS).
It would also deliver new capabilities, jointly delivering to large marine services and climate change projects.
The outcomes for OCIMS would support ocean-state forecasts for maritime operations, oil spill and trajectory modelling, storm surge predictions, water quality and related products at bay scale resolution, and enhanced ocean biogeochemistry observations.
For the Earth System Model, which was also a national priority, this initiative would deliver high-resolution, downscaled models for regional climate change projections, and predictive assessments of marine environmental trends such as marine ecology and carbon sequestration.
Backeberg noted that these capabilities would make a substantial contribution to both ocean governance and the blue economy development component of Operation Phakisa.
The OCIMS would be able to inform the development of small- or large-scale new aquaculture operations, which was a big target of Operation Phakisa.
“The platform will provide information on currents and winds in a specific area, as well as phytoplankton growth in the last 20 years, so that an assessment can be made in terms of how profitable a specific area would be for aquaculture.
“Phytoplankton are the first link in the food chain. They are known as primary producers because they produce the first forms of food,” he said.