Photography by:
  • Laven Naidoo, GCRO and Clive Hassall

A Carbon Atlas for the Gauteng City-Region

This project uses open source remote sensing and GIS data to provide quantitative information on different types of carbon sources across the Gauteng City-Region (GCR). These include green carbon (terrestrial trees, shrubs and grasses), blue carbon (aquatic sources and sediment), teal carbon (wetlands reed beds, sedges and macrophytes), brown carbon (organic, biomass combustion) and black carbon (inorganic, incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and soot).

The quantification of these five components of carbon is crucial for carbon accounting and natural capital accounting (SANBI) exercises within the regional South African context, while also addressing international policy imperatives, which are of particular importance as monetary compensation is given to the countries that can accurately quantify their carbon sources and sinks. International policies on carbon accounting include the Kyoto Protocol and UNFCCC REDD+. REDD+, which stands for “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks”.

Carbon sinks, such as blue and teal carbon are severely under-represented both in the national and international context due to the difficulty of quantifying, accessing them for field data collection and remote sensing. While quantifying carbon sources, such as brown and black carbon, has the potential to help monitor the environmental compliance of the industrial and energy sectors within the GCR (e.g. ESKOM has been well known to operate outside acceptable emissions levels).

The GCR can serve as a pilot study in which all of these five carbon types can be spatially mapped in an interactive data viewer. This project will rely on collaborations with scientists from the CSIR, Wits, UP and governmental bodies (e.g. South African Weather Services and Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) for ground data and possible advice on modelling approaches. The overall modelling approach will rely on the utilisation of regional scale models derived from field plot collections and airborne image datasets.

The project is expected to run for 3 years with the following outputs being envisioned:

1) A multi-authored book on Establishing a Carbon Atlas for the Gauteng City-Region

2) A scientific journal article - “Mapping the green carbon sinks of the Gauteng City-Region”

3) An interactive GIS data viewer on the established Gauteng City-Region Carbon Atlas


The GCRO hosted an inception workshop for collaborators from the CSIR and UP in July 2022. At this workshop, discussion on the book chapter contributions as well as the procurement of potential model calibration and validation sources were discussed.


July 2022 Map of the Month: Distribution of Green Carbon across the GCR

Laven Naidoo and Cher Petersen (March 2023). 'Spatial Distribution of Green Carbon across the Gauteng City Region (GCR): the first step towards a Carbon Atlas for Gauteng'. Presentation. Climate Change Research Conference by City of Tshwane and Tshwane University of Technology, 9 March 2023.

Laven Naidoo (April 2023). 'Current work on estimating green carbon and comparison to existing blue carbon estimates'. Presentation. NMMU and DFFE workshop on prioritisation of blue carbon ecosystems for implementation of restoration measures (online), 18 April 2023.

Last updated: 14 December 2023


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