CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment

The CSIR addresses pressing environmental and natural resource issues at local and national scales and beyond, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, invasive alien species, regional water resources, air pollution and land degradation. The industrial spectrum of this area of work includes mining and forestry-based bio-refining.

CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment provides national, provincial and local government, as well as the private sector, with science-based insights and solutions for addressing risks associated with the changing natural environment and the consumption of natural resources.

The geographical scope of the unit’s activities extends to neighbouring countries, adjacent oceans and parts of Africa.

CSIR research, development and innovation in natural resources and the environment include:

Modelling climate futures and variability at various scales for different sectors

Africa is likely to experience a wide range of impacts from future climate change, with large parts of the continent projected to become generally drier and significantly warmer in the 21st century.  CSIR scientists have collaborated with international partners in Australia, Japan and France to combine their climate modelling expertise and supercomputing infrastructure to develop reliable projections of future climate change over Africa and the Southern Ocean. The first African-based earth system model will predict climate and land-use futures and will be operable at various levels of resolution.

Providing decision-support tools for a range of applications and maintaining the quality and quantity of water resources

The CSIR develops coherent water-specific decision-support frameworks for water quality and quantity, which utilise multiple criteria decision analysis, such as integrated risk assessments, and associated enabling technologies, tools and techniques to ensure greater technical understanding on the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater interaction.  One of the sectors in which the CSIR works, is agriculture.

Defining and mitigating environmental risks on land and in the coastal environment

The CSIR develops appropriate models, tools, maps and frameworks to improve understanding and to enhance design and management of multifunctional landscapes, coasts, oceans and rivers that deliver equitable benefit flows to society and the economy in support of social development in a sustainable way.

Providing data and tools to inform sustainable land and resource use

The CSIR’s remote sensing-based terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystem assessment platform with commercial applications is under development. The coastal and marine applications combined with the hydrodynamic, sediment and wave modelling in coastal zones will support the efforts to improve the management of coastal and marine resources in support of the ocean economy being developed through Operation Phakisa.

Developing suitable water-specific risk assessment measures to promote and improve water resource quality and its associated socio-economic benefits 

Researchers have developed suitable methods for assessing ecological infrastructure, such as wetlands and intact river systems, and to promote and improve aquatic ecosystems health and its associated socio-economic benefits. The CSIR has also developed appropriate and affordable technologies such as phycoremediation aimed at small- to medium-scale wastewater treatment facilities to promote and improve water resource quality.

Improving the ecosystem function of degraded landscapes

The CSIR develops operational support for rural landscapes, catchments and cities (coastal and inland) through development of long-term conceptual model/s of interactions between social-ecological systems, the ecosystem services they generate, ecological infrastructure, human wellbeing, equity and poverty.

Creating fiscal and social tools to incentivise and enable sustainability planning

The CSIR generates knowledge and creates tools to effectively integrate sustainability into development policy, assessment, planning and management for South Africa’s transition to a Green Economy.

Unlocking green economy growth with a focus on the waste and biomass sectors

By developing tools for embedding sustainability into development planning and creating new knowledge and technologies, the unit contributes to unlocking green economy development opportunities evident in the biomass and waste sectors. The unit has also developed a forest and waste biomass biorefinery research and development platform developing technologies and directed chemical engineering, chemistry and biology capabilities enabling green economy development.

Developing critical next-generation mining systems for the longevity of mining

The CSIR is assisting in the development of the next-generation mining systems that will allow for a socially, environmentally and financially sustainable approach to responsible mining that contributes to the long-term development and diversification of the local and national economy.

Developing core mining and mechanisation programmes

The CSIR is developing new mining systems that will allow for a reduced environmental footprint. The organisation is committed to contributing to co-ordinated research and development activities across the mining value chain aimed at achieving sustainable development of the sector.

Sustainability and equitable benefit flow to society guide the unit’s approach to its work.

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General Contact

Contact Person

Dr Jonas Mphepya

+27(0) 21 888 2464


Contact Person

Reyhana Mahomed

+27(0) 12 841 3598

Competence Areas

Mining and mineral resources

Addressing the mining industry’s lack of modernisation, increasing geotechnical complexities and grade degradation.

Ecosystem services

Developing models, tools, maps and frameworks to improve the understanding and enhance the design and management of multifunctional landscapes.

Adapting to and mitigating global change

Using numerical and atmospheric modelling to reliably predict climate futures on various temporal and spatial resolutions.

Environmental solutions for a green economy

Addressing the need for new knowledge and technologies to unlock green economy development opportunities in the biomass and solid waste sectors.

Water resources

Developing water resources and source-directed decision-making frameworks for water resource quality and quantity.