The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) is a science network of people, organisations and, most importantly observation platforms, that perform Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) in South Africa and its surrounding oceans. The SAEON is of global importance as an innovative approach in ecology to understand environmental change and to determine the impact of anthropogenic forces at multiple scales but it is a remarkably complex challenge to statistically discern between ubiquitous natural variability and exogenous forcing. The SAEON constitutes a national government response to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit 2002) and is a component of the GEO (Group on Earth Observations). The SAEON has become the leader in environmental science and observation in South Africa but has been criticised for taking a long time to establish, a situation which was inevitable in view of SAEON’s multiple stakeholder corps. It has also been raised that the cost of replicated experimental treatments across SAEON sites will be high.