Sustainable land management in a global context —

A synthesis of regional research results of the GLUES project

Stakeholder involvement

Research is often conducted solely from the researchers’ point of view. The consequence: those who should benefit from the research results are far too seldom inquired if the right research questions are asked at all. The knowledge of local people is being neglected. That is why the „Sustainable Land Management” programme took a different approach. Its activities involved those stakeholders, farmers, landowners, local initiatives, regional and national institutions, entrepreneurs and non-governmental organisations, who are affected the most by a changing land use. The BMBF funding measure with its twelve regional projects thus tied in with the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. At the conference, such approaches were called for in which people and institutions are at the centre of sustainable development measures. Such “multi-stakeholder” approaches require involving potential users of research results over the course of the research project in the so-called “co-design” process: from co-establishment of the project, over co-production of knowledge, to co-dissemination of results. That, however, is a difficult task, as the perspectives of researchers and local land users differ. Moreover, the research system – i.e. professional qualification goals and career paths of young scientists – often contradicts the requirements of implementation-oriented research. The efforts to involve those affected have proven worthwhile in the regional projects: convincing results can be generated when scientists see themselves as a part of a comprehensive “science-practice team” and all parties are involved right from the start.

  • Poster session, Carbiocial Workshop. Brazil Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Field work in Brazil Photo: INNOVATE
  • COMTESS Stakeholder meeting at the North Sea Photo: E. Wegener
  • The Future Okavango Stakeholder meeting in Africa Photo: M. Finckh
  • Stakeholder panel at the Final Conference 2016 in Germany Photo: A. Schmidt
  • The Future Okavango Stakeholder meeting in Africa Photo: TFO
  • SURUMER Stakeholder Workshop in China Photo: M. Kraus

Key findings

Among other things (see additional information on webpages dedicated to the regional projects), the research results from twelve regional projects show that:

A meaningful scientific support for sustainable land management depends largely on how well the knowledge is integrated across disciplines, and how closely science and practice are interwoven. While only single or few land users are involved in decision-making processes at a local level (e.g. on a plot), land management at a landscape level depends on numerous stakeholders from various sectors (agriculture, forestry, urban and transport planning, environmental protection), their interactions, and their respective claims and demands.

All stakeholders, including farmers, adapt to their new roles in the science-practice collaboration through learning together and from each other, clarifying different expectations, and creating framework conditions in research and practice. With this approach, an integrated (i.e. intersectoral as well as inter- and transdisciplinary) research and planning are made possible.

When the exploitation of land only benefits individual users without an immediate consequent degradation of land resources there is a little incentive for their preservation. Balancing the costs and benefits of land management requires close cooperation and mutual responsibility of all stakeholders.

Working with stakeholders is challenging but it can also be surprisingly fruitful when producing unexpected results, new experience, and knowledge.

Recommendations

In all twelve research projects, researchers collaborated with stakeholders, addressed different issues, and developed a wide range of approaches and solutions together. The recommendations listed below were adjusted for each particular region:

  • Base stakeholder involvement on a solid analysis: A thorough understanding of people, interests, structures (in decision making and communication), problems, and institutions is a key to a successful stakeholder management in an implementation-oriented research. (Example from Brazil: INNOVATE, example from China: SuMaRiO).

  • Use farms that test innovative farming methods as valuable mediators of knowledge transfer to other agricultural enterprises. The so-called “field days” have proven to be particularly effective. (Example from Russia: KULUNDA)

  • Involve people from practice to participate in the project as soon as possible: Local land users and experts can contribute significantly to an understanding of local/regional land conditions and land use and research projects should benefit from their observational skills and practical experience (Example from Germany: CCLandStraD, examples from China: SURUMER).

  • Develop common goals for researchers and professionals: In addition to defining general research questions and objectives, implementation-oriented goals of the project also need to be clarified. They serve as guidance for all those involved in the research and development process. (Example from Germany: COMTESS, example from Vietnam: LUCCi).

  • Strengthen and empower intermediaries in order to secure project continuation after the end of the funding phase: Identify people and institutions in the research region who can support the project in communicating and disseminating knowledge to decision-making bodies after the project has ended. (Example from Africa: The Future Okavango, example from Madagascar: SuLaMa).

  • Make use of existing methods and adapt them to local conditions: Successful collaboration and communication methods are e.g. farmer field schools, education days for pupils and students, videos and TV series or online games such as LandYOUs. Further, river basin commissions, regional communication platforms, and cross-sectoral information systems or centers have proven to be useful at a landscape scale. (GLUES, example from Russia: KULUNDA, example from Southeast Asia: LEGATO)

Further reading (selection)

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Castonguay, A.C., Burkhard, B., Müller, F., Horgan, F.G., Settele, J. (2016): Resilience and adaptability of rice terrace social-ecological systems: A case study of a local community’s perception in Banaue, Philippines. Ecology & Society, 21(2): 15.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-08348-210215

Förster, J., Barkmann, J., Fricke, R., Hotes, S., Kleyer, M., Kobbe, S., Kübler, D., Rumbaur, C., Siegmund-Schultze, M., Seppelt, R., Settele, J., Spangenberg, J. H., Tekken, V., Vaclavik, T., Wittmer, H. (2015): Assessing ecosystem services for informing land-use decisions: a problem-oriented approach. Ecology & Society, 20(3): 31.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07804-200331

Spangenberg, J.H., Görg, C., Settele, J. (2015): Stakeholder involvement in ESS research and governance: between conceptual ambition and practical experiences – risks, challenges and tested tools. Ecosystem Services, 16: 201–211.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2015.10.006

Steinhäußer, R., Siebert, R., Steinführer, A., Hellmich, M. (2015): National and regional land-use conflicts in Germany from the perspective of stakeholders. Land Use Policy, 49: 183–194.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.08.009

Fritz-Vietta, N.V.M.,  de la Vega-Leinert, A.C., Stoll-Kleemann, S. (2015): Landscape change in the Fischland-Darß-Zingst region (Northern Germany) – Implications for local people’s sense of regional belonging. In: Stoll-Kleemann, Susanne (ed.) (2015): Local Perceptions and Preferences for Landscape and Land Use in the Fischland-Darß-Zingst Region, German Baltic Sea, Greifswalder Geographische Arbeiten, 51: 1–40, Institut für Geographie und Geologie der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald.
URL: https://geo.uni-greifswald.de/fileadmin/uni-greifswald/fakultaet/mnf/geowissenschaften/Arbeitsbereiche_Geographie/Nachhaltigkeitswissenschaften/Seite_Mitarbeiter/Publikationen/Fritz-Vietta/GGA_51_-_Teil_1.pdf

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Projects

CC-LandStraD

Land use in Transition in different german regions

COMTESS

A safe future for Germany’s coasts at North and Baltic Sea

INNOVATE

New concepts for the sustainable reservoir use in Brazil

KULUNDA

Effects of land-use change in the Russian Kulunda Steppe

LEGATO

Innovative approaches in rice cultivation in Asia rice fields

LUCCi

Sustainable land and water uses in Central Vietnam

SASCHA

New Strategies for the forest Steppe in Western Siberia

SuLaMa

Greater sustainability for south-west of Madagascar

SURUMER

More sustainable rubber cultivation in Asian Greater Mekong Subregion

The Future Okavango

Help for fragile ecosystem of Okavango River in southern Africa

Science policy interface

Research results often remain in the ivory towers of research institutions and universities – a frequently heard accusation that is hard to be simply dismissed. One of the primary recipients of the research results are policy makers. In the ‘Sustainable Land Management’ BMBF funding measure, the dialogue with regional policy-decision makers was established from the beginning to provide up-to-date knowledge on sustainable land management.

Transferring the results on sustainable land management into policy and practice is challenging due to a considerable diversity of the decision-making bodies in the field of global environmental politics. With slightly different approaches and focus, there are numerous institutions that deal with the topic of sustainable land management. These include, in particular, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It is important to support a dialogue between the scientific and policy-making communities and to facilitate an easy access to the research findings for policy makers. In the BMBF funding measure, scientists were requested to communicate their findings in a clear and accessible way and to convincingly describe their relevance for policy goals and strategic plans.

  • Presentation of the book 'Making sense of research for sustainale land management' at COP 13. Cancun, Mexico 2016  Photo: IISDENB/ K. Worth
  • Seminar at the XI Semana nacional de ciencia e tecnologia INPA 2014. Brazil Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Final Conference of the Sustainable Land Management funding measure at the end of 2016, Germany Photo: A. Schmidt
  • Panel at the Final Conference of the Sustainable Land Management funding measure at the end of 2016, Germany Photo: A. Schmidt
  • Panel at the Final Conference of the Sustainable Land Management funding measure at the end of 2016, Germany Photo: A. Schmidt
  • Conference of the Parties (COP 13) of the CBD at the end of 2016, Mexico Photo: K. Worth / IISDENB

Key findings

Among other things (see additional information on webpages dedicated to the regional projects), the research results from twelve regional projects show that:

Enhanced awareness raising is still needed in order to understand and broadly acknowledge the interdependences related to utilization of land, the importance of related ecosystem services, and our dependence on them for agricultural production, energy, recreation, cultural needs, and air or water. Research should play an important role in this communication task of policy makers.

Policy makers can use the research findings from the field of sustainable land management for:

  • planning and decision making

  • consideration of combined impacts of land use and climate change on local and regional (landscape) levels. This applies both to short- and long-term periods as well as to climate and land management scenarios.

  • an exchange and cooperation with international institutions

  • transfer of experiences and solutions that have been made and found in the context of similar environmental problems. Demonstrating transferable and local solutions to other interested stakeholders in other regions of the world is an important task

Recommendations

In all twelve research projects, approaches and solutions for specific issues in specific regions were developed in order to provide scientific expertise for land-management policy makers. The recommendations are adjusted based on the needs of each particular region.

Making use of synergies and finding solutions that balance different societal interests: In order to put scientific findings into practice, interactions must be implemented under adequate framework conditions. As shown by the examples from Africa and Northwest Germany, these can be negotiated with the stakeholders and compensated in case of individual losses, societal benefits or other win-lose situation. (The Future Okavango, COMTESS)

Closing the ‘governance gap’ in land management: Political and administrative structures need to be improved and/or developed through cross-sectoral cooperation or new institutional frameworks. This would help to minimize trade-offs between different sectors and to balance different societal demands on land. Decision support systems developed by researchers could then be better used. (example from China: SuMaRiO).

Openness and willingness to base decisions on long-term societal goals: This can be supported e.g. by stakeholder platforms that monitor and, if necessary, readjust implemented measures. A dialog among all stakeholders within a project is necessary and its results must be considered in land management planning and decision-making. (example from Africa: The Future Okavango with OCACOM)

Further reading (selection)

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Disse, M. (2016): Sustainable land and water management of River Oases along the Tarim River, Proc. IAHS, 373: 25–29.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5194/piahs-373-25-2016

de la Vega-Leinert, A.C., Stoll-Kleemann, S. (2015): Identifying gaps between science, policy and societal perspectives on coastal land use: the case of managed realignment in Darß – Zingst region, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Eastern German Baltic coast. In: Stoll-Kleemann, Susanne (ed.) (2015): Local Perceptions and Preferences for Landscape and Land Use in the Fischland-Darß-Zingst Region, German Baltic Sea, Greifswalder Geographische Arbeiten 51: 41–67, Institut für Geographie und Geologie der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald.
URL: https://geo.uni-greifswald.de/...de_la_Vega_Leinert/GGA_51.pdf

Yang, Y., Disse, M., Yu, R., Yu, G., Sun, L., Huttner, P., Rumbaur, C. (2015): Large-Scale Hydrological Modeling and Decision-Making for Agricultural Water Consumption and Allocation in the Main Stem Tarim River, China. Water 2015, 7(6): 2821–2839.
URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/w7062821

Ahlheim, M., Frör, O., Luo, J., Pelz, S., Jiang, T., Yiliminuer (2015): The Social Value of Environmental Improvements in the Tarim Basin - toward a Comprehensive Assessment in a Heterogeneous Setting. Environment and Natural Resources Research, 5(2): 49-65.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5539/enrr.v5n2p49

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Projects

COMTESS

A safe future for Germany’s coasts at North and Baltic Sea

SuLaMa

Greater sustainability for south-west of Madagascar

SuMaRiO

A management plan for China’s most important cotton growing region

The Future Okavango

Help for fragile ecosystem of Okavango River in southern Africa

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the benefits ecosystems provide to human wellbeing. The choice of the word services becomes clearer when the direct contribution of water to us is considered, for example. The concept of ecosystems providing us with services was catalysed in the early 2000s when the UN-led Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defined a number of services that ranged, among others, from food, timber, fuel and fibre through air quality and waste processing, to cultural value and amenity. These services may be categorized into three broad groups: provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services. Respective examples are the provision of food, the control of climate or disease, and the recreational benefit of ecosystems.

Without preserving and managing these ecosystem services, long-term utilization of land by humans is inconceivable. The value of ecosystem services, however, is often not recognized by the society. The multiplicity of ecosystem services also creates a number of interactions. Not everything – food, clean water, and recreation – can be obtained from the same area at the same time. Communicating the complexity of ecosystem service assessments and inherent trade-offs to decision makers, politicians and local stakeholders, is therefore a difficult task.

A core objective of the research was to conduct global scale investigations on ecosystem services and synthesize available place-based knowledge on the interactions between land management and ecosystem services. The research aimed at developing management methods and instruments to resolve ecosystem service trade-offs given a certain land management regime and to specifically address the socio-economic context of management decisions to support communication of ecosystem services.

  • Pollination benefits for the environment Photo: André Künzelmann\UFZ
  • Ecotourism in the Philippines Photo: M. Wiemers
  • Products from natural resources. Harvest of cotton in Brazil Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Wood utilization. Forestry in Germany Photo: J. Fick
  • The “Green Liver System” water purification in Brazil Photo: E. Marques
  • Rubber extraction in the Mekong region Photo: M. Kraus
  • From Wood to Charcoal, Angola Photo: M. Finckh
  • Honey production in the Mekong region Photo: P. Oremek

Key findings

Among other things (see additional information on webpages dedicated to the regional projects), the research results from twelve regional projects show that:

Sustainable land management can improve the capacity of ecosystems and agricultural production systems. It can thus meet the changing demands of society, strengthen the environmental and climate protection, and also adapt to climate change.

Using market-based instruments can be helpful and efficient, as shown by the examples of the Soya or Cattle Moratoriums in South Amazonia. Ownership rules and their enforcement supported by a development of land mapping and surveying methods can help reduce rainforest deforestation and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable land management can still increase yields while preserving the soil fertility and water quality.

Preservation of ecosystems and provision of their services can be accomplished by intensifying land use on agricultural areas within production systems while leaving other areas of natural habitat untouched (“land sharing ‒ land sparing”). It is not about choosing either one or the other, but about integrating both into the available space.

Modelling results show significant changes (variances) in organically bound carbon and GHG emissions from soils, and indicate that scenarios of legally possible land-use intensification show minimal effects on erosion risk and water balance. (Example from Brazil: Carbiocial)

Distribution of monetary estimates and uncertainties

The knowledge on feasible monetary valuation of ecosystem services is spatially distributed. A synthesis of case studies shows extrapolated relative monetary values (yellow to green) and uncertainties (yellow to red) of the benefit transfer functions for the ecosystem services.

Potential conflicts between economic interests and ecological, social, and cultural costs and benefits may hinder the preservation of ecosystems. In some places, a less intensive management of a production system can improve biodiversity but may result in losses in yields and income. This is most obvious in places where natural conditions for agricultural production (soil, water, and climate) are favourable and degradation has not yet taken place.

Global pollination benefits

Pollination is one of the best studied ecosystem services, addressed also by the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) report. This world map shows the economic importance of pollination for agriculture based on yield data on pollination-dependent crops. The values are given as US $ per hectare for the year 2000.

Recommendations

Solutions for the management of ecosystem services were developed in the twelve research projects and adapted to each particular region. A combination of several different measures, in particular, has proved a positive effect on improving available ecosystem services:

When applying the concept of ecosystem services in regional land management, potential responses of the services can be demonstrated. Stakeholders should be shown that biodiversity and the provision of resources are interconnected.

  • A combination of measures is needed: not just a single land management measure should be applied, but interactions and win-win strategies should be developed. For example, farms can combat an increased weed growth by direct seed (no-till) methods combined with crop rotations and a precise application of herbicides. (Examples from Russia: KULUNDA, SASCHA)

  • Win-win situations for land systems that optimize production and emissions of greenhouse gases should be identified. According to modelling results, less rainforest is lost if focus is aimed at crop management optimization rather than expansion of grazing. (Example from Brazil: Carbiocial)

  • Locally adapted, typical indigenous species should be given priority in urban greening. An integrated approach that combines mechanisms of controlled water use with technical consulting, enhanced environmental awareness and subsidized water-efficient irrigation technologies is better than mere governmental regulations. For example, the “groundwater model” showed that the current practice of groundwater recharge through natural flooding of the Tarim River Basin for the revitalisation of the Tugai forests should be maintained. The Decision Support System (DSS) developed by the SuMaRiO project is designed to support stakeholders in deriving possible implications of their actions in the Tarim River Basin. (Example from China: SuMaRiO)

  • Structural landscape elements (riparian forests, flower strips, hedges, earth bunds, terraces, water reservoirs) in production systems can be used to prevent water runoff and soil erosion, to increase water availability and quality, to support integrated pest management, and to preserve biodiversity. (Example from Southeast Asia: LEGATO)

  • By enhancing soil organic matter management and increasing carbon content, soil fertility, soil biodiversity, water-holding capacity and carbon sequestration can be positively affected. The soil cover prevents soil erosion by wind and water, reduces surface evaporation, improves water infiltration and decreases mineralisation of soil organic matter, while reducing CO2 emissions. (Example from Madagascar: SuLaMa)

  • In the agricultural steppes of Russia, organic carbon can be kept in the soil through low-impact soil cultivation (minimum tillage). For example, after the harvest, stubbles are left standing and the soil surfaces are torn open only in places where new seeds are to be sown. This technique improves various soil properties and increases the yields. In addition to infiltration, i.e. the proportion of precipitation that penetrates into the soil and seeps away, the indicators of water holding capacity (plant available water) also play an important role. (Example from Russia: KULUNDA)

  • Intensified agricultural production on the smallholder fields prevents transformation of natural forests into agricultural land and thus further release of carbon into the atmosphere. This helps secure future access to timber, crops, medicinal plants, and other forest ecosystem services. (Example from Africa: The Future Okavango)

  • Focusing on system resilience and risk reduction rather than strengthening ecosystem services is a possible way out of the long-standing conflict between ecology and economics. Shifting the production towards stable ‒ rather than maximum ‒ yields is especially important in times of climate change and fluctuations in market prices. (Example from Germany: COMTESS)

  • In order to make assessments of ecosystem services more policy-relevant and to increase their significance in decision-making processes, it is necessary to focus more on the specific problems and conflicting goals in land use and the stakeholders involved. If possible, specific information needs on ecosystem services and their intended use should be developed in collaboration with land users and other stakeholders before the analyses begin. The analysis of ecosystem services and their assessment should aim at the needs of decision makers and show management options. (GLUES, Förster et al. 2015; example from Germany: COMTESS)

Further reading (selection)

Cord, A.F., Brauman, K.A., Chaplin-Kramer, R., Huth, A., Ziv, G., Seppelt, R. (2017): Priorities to advance monitoring of ecosystem services using earth observation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 32(6): 416–428.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.003

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Schmidt, S., Manceur, A.M., Seppelt, R. (2016): Uncertainty of monetary valued ecosystem services – Value transfer functions for global mapping. PLoS ONE, 11(3): e0148524.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148524

Weinzierl, T., Wehberg, J., Böhner, J., Conrad, O. (2016): Spatial Assessment of Land Degradation Risk for the Okavango River Catchment, Southern Africa. Land Degradation & Development, 27(2): 281–294.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.2426

Fleischer, E., Khashimov, I., Hölzel, N., Klemm, O. (2016): Carbon exchange fluxes over peatlands in Western Siberia: Possible feedback between land-use change and climate change. Science of the Total Environment, 545–546: 424–433.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.12.073

Kämpf, I., Hölzel, N., Störrle, M., Broll, G., Kiehl, K. (2016): Potential of temperate agricultural soils for carbon sequestration: A meta-analysis of land-use effects. Science of the Total Environment, 566–567: 428–435.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.067

Cierjacks, A., Pommeranz, M., Schulz, K., Almeida-Cortez, J. (2016): Is crop yield related to weed species diversity and biomass in coconut and banana fields of northeastern Brazil? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 220: 175–183.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.01.006

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Projects

COMTESS

A safe future for Germany’s coasts at North and Baltic Sea

KULUNDA

Effects of land-use change in the Russian Kulunda Steppe

LEGATO

Innovative approaches in rice cultivation in Asia rice fields

SASCHA

New Strategies for the forest Steppe in Western Siberia

SuLaMa

Greater sustainability for south-west of Madagascar

SURUMER

More sustainable rubber cultivation in Asian Greater Mekong Subregion

Water management

Clean water in a sufficient amount and quality is a key to life. Whether in agriculture, household or industry – water is a crucial resource for human well-being. That may be self-evident for many people especially on the northern hemisphere, but it is far from being acknowledged globally. There is still 10 percent of global population with no access to clean drinking water and 32 percent with inadequate basic sanitation. These are one of the reasons why the United Nations have explicitly stated that provision of water and sanitation is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable development (target no. 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals). Sufficient and clean water is also essential for ecosystems and agriculture. On the contrary, land use in general and agriculture in particular have a major impact on water quality: through utilized chemicals, soil sealing and compaction, and the associated loss of filter- and storage function.

In addition, water availability and rainfall distribution during the growing season are being affected by climate change. Recurrent drought and flood events demonstrate that non-adapted land-use strategies may have negative consequences, such as having both too much and too little water at the same place but at different times. The efficient use of rainwater has therefore become another challenge that land users are faced with.

  • Pumping stations at the North Sea Photo: Entwässerungsverband Emden Projekt Comtess
  • The Cubango River, Angola Photo: TFO
  • Drinking water system, Madagascar Photo: A. Englert
  • Children bringing water, Angola Photo: A. Gröngröft
  • Water pipe in the Tarim Basin Photo: P. Keilholz

Key findings

Among other things (see additional information on webpages dedicated to the regional projects), the research results from twelve regional projects show that:

Water already is, and will continue to be, a limiting factor in the agricultural production, be it rain-fed or irrigated. Conflicts over water arise in many regions of the world, e.g. when river basins cross national borders (Okavango Delta) or when water has to fulfil different purposes (agriculture, industry, private households, environment). The current overexploitation of water resources will have serious consequences.

Climate change and climate extremes will affect water availability by increased rain storms followed by prolonged dry spells. This will lead to water scarcity and hence decreasing crop yields (associated with risks of crop failures), as well as low availability of water for hydropower generation and other purposes.

The increasing use of water resources together with a spread of irrigation systems have consequences for the hydrology of large river basins. In cases such as the African Okavango Delta, a transnational cooperation is therefore needed. In this particular case, the OKACOM River Commission was established. If commissions such as these are sufficiently funded and politically strengthened, water resources can be collectively and sustainably managed.

Water scarcity and current irrigation practices are associated with a severe expansion of salinized soils. The intrusion of salt water into freshwater aquifers is a globally growing threat to freshwater supplies for cities and agriculture.

Multiple cropping

Number of suitable crop cycles for 16 crops, considering rain-fed conditions and irrigation on currently irrigated areas.

Growing cycle

Start of the growing cycle for 16 crops, considering rain-fed conditions and irrigation on currently irrigated areas. In case of multiple cropping, the start of the first growing cycle is shown.

Recommendations

In order to improve water management, solutions were developed in the research projects adapted to each particular region:

Due to water scarcity and high investment costs for irrigation, it is important to make the best use of rainwater and to promote water-conserving agricultural practices in order to reduce the need for further irrigation.

Storing water whenever possible: This has a great potential for further application in practice, especially in arid and semi-arid areas. The diverse demands for the use of reservoir water require strong management skills – especially when it comes to reconciling hydropower, irrigation, and environmental water uses.

The following principles are relevant for the irrigated land management, both on small and large-scales:

  • sprinkler or drip irrigation instead of flooding to improve the timing of irrigation (Example from China: SuMaRiO)

  • choice of drought-resistant or water-efficient crops to reduce the need for irrigation (Example from China: SuMaRiO)

  • introduction of water quotas and attractive prices to make water use more efficient. If the demand for water decreases, more water will again be available for natural vegetation (Example from Brazil: INNOVATE)

  • adjustment of irrigation management to local soil and water conditions and reuse of water to prevent or reduce salinization (Example from Vietnam: LUCCi)

Further reading (selection)

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Thomas, F.M., Jeschke, M., Zhang, X., Lang, P. (2016): Stand structure and productivity of Populus euphratica along a gradient of groundwater distances at the Tarim River (NW China). Journal of Plant Ecology, rtw078.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/jpe/rtw078

Disse, M. (2016): Sustainable land and water management of River Oases along the Tarim River, Proc. IAHS, 373: 25–29.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5194/piahs-373-25-2016

Firoz, A.B.M., Nauditt, A., Fink, M., Ribbe, L. (2016): Modelling the impact of hydropower development and operation on downstream discharge in a highly dynamic tropical central Vietnamese river basin. Submitted to Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.
URL: not available

Rumbaur, C., Thevs, N., Disse, M., Ahlheim, M., Brieden, A.. Cyffka, B.. Duethmann, D., Feike, T., Frör, O., Gärtner, P., Halik, Ü., Hill, J., Hinnenthal, M., Keilholz, P., Kleinschmit, B., Krysanova, V., Kuba, M., Mader, S., Menz, C., Othmanli, H., Pelz, S., Schroeder, M., Siew, T.F., Stender, V., Stahr, K., Thomas, F.M., Welp, M., Wortmann, M., Zhao, X., Chen, X., Jiang, T., Luo, J., Yimit, H., Yu, R., Zhang, X., Zhao, C. (2015): Sustainable management of river oases along the Tarim River (SuMaRiO) in Northwest China under conditions of climate change. Earth System Dynamics, 6(1): 83–107.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-6-83-2015

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Projects

INNOVATE

New concepts for the sustainable reservoir use in Brazil

LUCCi

Sustainable land and water uses in Central Vietnam

SuMaRiO

A management plan for China’s most important cotton growing region

The Future Okavango

Help for fragile ecosystem of Okavango River in southern Africa

Food security

As of today, 800 million people all around the world are suffering from under- or malnutrition. And many scientists already question how we will be able to guarantee food security in 2050, when 10+ billion people live on Earth, as predicted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Ending hunger has therefore been listed as goal No. 2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable land management plays a special role in the fight against hunger. One of the most obvious approaches to food provisioning is „closing yield gaps“– an approach that aims at increasing agricultural yields. But this approach is just one of many aspects of the food security challenge. More efficient food distribution, better access to food, reduced crop losses and food waste, or adjusted consumption habits are all equally important strategies to combat hunger. Securing food for the world‘s population is therefore more of a socio-economic issue than an agro-ecological issue of incresing agricultural yields.

  • Agricultural landscape in Germany Photo: A. Künzelmann/ UFZ
  • Rice paddy in Central Vietnam Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Tractor seeding in Siberia Photo: I. Kühling
  • Food variety Photo: T. Aenis
  • Harvesting Mato Grosso in Brazil Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Watermelon field in Brazil Photo: M. Guschal
  • Hay as animal fodder in Siberia Photo: I. Kühling
  • Zebu animal husbandry in Madagascar Photo: S. Kobbe
  • Regional market in Angola Photo: M. Pröpper
  • Local women transporting manioc in Angola Photo: M. Finckh

Key findings

Among other things (see additional information on webpages dedicated to the regional projects), the research results from twelve regional projects show that:

Food production has increased substantially since industrialization, i.e. since the beginning of the Anthropocene about 200 years ago. Between 1961 and 1999, growth rates of food production were higher than the population growth. However, this growth is unlikely to continue, as the area that can be used for agriculture is limited (GLUES; Seppelt et al. 2014). [press release]

The rising demand for food can be met without expansion of agricultural land if the now available land is exploited optimally. The stock of agricultural land currently in use has a potential to feed the growing population and even to exceed the projected demand for the year 2050. This will be possible especially thanks to a better spatial distribution of agricultural use (GLUES; Mauser et al. 2015). [press release]

In a few exceptional cases, there may be positive interactions with biodiversity. In most cases, however, trade-offs with biodiversity protection are to be expected if the yield increase is achieved by expansion of agricultural land (GLUES; Delzeit et al. 2016). Intensification of land use also increases the pressure on biodiversity, although its effect is more complex and depends on the region and the type of land use (GLUES; Stein et al. 2014, Gerstner et al. 2014)

Eighty percent of the agricultural land in sub-Saharan Africa is managed by smallholders (working on up to 10 hectares), producing 80 percent of the food supply in these regions (source: FAO). Maintaining the smallholder farming, which provides livelihood for many people in developing countries, is therefore of utmost importance for food security. Climate change might affect these farmers more severely than the high intensive agricultural systems of the west. Diversification of cropping systems and sources of income can help to stabilize yields and livelihoods. (GLUES, SuLaMa)

Agricultural suitability

General agricultural suitability at a spatial resolution of 30 arcsec considering rainfed conditions and irrigation on currently irrigated areas. The agricultural suitability represents for each pixel the maximum suitability value of the considered 16 crops.

Recommendations

To improve the foundations of food production, solutions were developed in the research projects adapted to each particular region:

In the semi-arid areas of Africa, crop production on deep sands depends on rainfall amounts and patterns during the growing season, which is associated with risks of crop failure. Here, woodlands are better adapted due to their deep rooting system, which is able to take up the water from deep layers in dry spells, and prevent nutrients from leaching. Therefore, growing woodlands rather than farming crops would not only provide better food security but also decrease the pressure on water resources. (The Future Okavango)

Population pressure and a disappearance of traditional taboos in Madagascar have led to an overuse of sweet potatoes and tamarinds. They were used as a dietary supplement, as medicine, and as a supply source for charcoal production. The suggested solutions to this problem include raising awareness about the sustainable use of sweet potatoes, approaches to their cultivation (with different results on different soil types), and utilization of tree species other than tamarind trees for charcoal production. Establishment of tamarind tree plantations in villages and better food processing are other options. (SuLaMa)

Adaptive management practices provided higher yields in the Kulunda Steppe of Russia. It was possible to stabilize the yields despite often occurring drought spells. The direct sowing proved to be an efficient method in these particular cases. (KULUNDA)

Vegetable production in home gardens can be a feasible diversification strategy for food security. It can be improved by a deliberate inclusion of trees and shrubs, and various agroforestry systems with drought resistant crops (millet and sorghum instead of corn). (SuLaMa)

Further reading (selection)

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Dominik, C., Seppelt, R., Horgan, F.G., Marquez, L., Settele, J., Vaclavik, T. (2017): Regional-scale effects override the influence of fine-scale landscape heterogeneity on rice arthropod communities. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 246(June): 269–78.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.06.011

Delzeit, R., Zabel, F., Meyer, C., Vaclavik, T. (2017): Addressing future trade-offs between biodiversity and cropland expansion to improve food security. Regional Environmental Change, 1–13.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-0927-1

Meyfroidt, P., Schierhorn, F., Prishchepov, A. V., Müller, D., Kuemmerle, T. (2016): Drivers, constraints and trade-offs associated with recultivating abandoned cropland in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Global Environmental Change, 37: 1–15.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.01.003

Noromiarilanto, F., Brinkmann, K., Faramalala, M.H., Buerkert, A. (2016): Assessment of food self-sufficiency in smallholder farming systems of south-western Madagascar using survey and remote sensing data. Agricultural Systems, 149: 139–149.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2016.09.005

Mauser, W., Klepper, G., Zabel, F., Delzeit, R., Hank, T., Putzenlechner, B., Calzadilla, A. (2015): Global biomass production potentials exceed expected future demand without the need for cropland expansion. Nature Communications, 6: 8946.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms9946

read more

Projects

KULUNDA

Effects of land-use change in the Russian Kulunda Steppe

SASCHA

New Strategies for the forest Steppe in Western Siberia

SuLaMa

Greater sustainability for south-west of Madagascar

The Future Okavango

Help for fragile ecosystem of Okavango River in southern Africa

Products & Education

The sustainable use of landscapes is a matter that concerns us all. But what are the best ways to communicate this topic? Addressing land management is difficult because it affects a wide range of environmental issues. It brings together many different disciplines ranging from ecology and geography to agricultural sciences, economics, social sciences, and computer science. Such various target groups make it difficult to achieve an efficient communication. The target audience includes politicians, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and interest groups, but also farmers, businesses and agricultural organizations responsible for the on-the-ground implementation of measures. In addition, the results of sustainable land management should be conveyed within schools and universities and arouse interest of all open-minded people and possible future stakeholders.

There are numerous ways of communication. Here, we list four specific examples on how results of the Sustainable Land Management programme were disseminated.

WOCAT

Publication: “Making Sense of Research for Sustainable Land Management”

The book “Making Sense of Research for Sustainable Land Management” presents results of the BMBF funding measure “Sustainable Land Management”, coordinated by the GLUES team, and is intended to help with translating scientific findings into practice. It provides solutions for more sustainable land management that not only addresses the environment and existing ecosystems around the world, but also aspects of climate change. The book was published in 2016 by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern.

If you want to know more...
LandYOUs

LandYOUs online game

Communicating the topic of sustainability to younger generations may be challenging and requires innovative approaches. Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) together with the Pi Solution IT Company have developed a serious game called LandYOUs. The game is expected to arouse young people’s interest in sustainable land management. The players step into the role of a governor with the rights to determine land use of a virtual country called Ecotania. They have ten rounds to improve both environmental quality and quality of life in Ecotania. The game can be used e.g. during lectures and seminars at school and universities.

If you want to know more...
GDI

Geodata Infrastructure (GDI)

Within the framework of GLUES, the Geodata Infrastructure (GDI) has been developed by the Department of Geosciences at the TU Dresden. The key objective of this online portal is to facilitate publishing, sharing, and maintaining global and regional data sets, as well as model results on land-use scenarios, climate change, and economic development. The GLUES GDI supported a technical collaboration of the GLUES partners and the regional projects of the Sustainable Land Management programme and provides a technical basis for further outreach activities.

If you want to know more...
Videos/TV-Serien

Participatory videos/TV series

The Future Okavango regional project has introduced “participatory videos”. These should show the local perspective on natural resources and understandably communicate research results to the land users. The videos were prepared and filmed by local villagers and “para-ecologists”. Their job was to facilitate communication between scientists and the communities of land users.

Researchers in the LEGATO project have opted for a different approach. In order to convince rice farmers to give up the use of insecticides in the rice fields, a regional TV station together with the LEGATO scientists have developed a concept for a TV series.

If you want to know more...


Biodiversity

A foundation of our existence and a key to our future survival: biological diversity, also called biodiversity. It refers to more than just counting animal and plant species. It is about the entire life spectrum on Earth, about the genetic diversity within species and diversity of ecosystems. Protection and sustainable use of biological diversity is therefore of great importance for sustainable development of land and water resources. Maintaining biodiversity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. In addition to climate change, changes in land use and land-use intensity are the major causes of biodiversity decline. Sustainable land use and sustainable land management ensure food production and are therefore indispensable to our future.

Sustainable land management must also ensure fulfilling the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010. The concepts of sustainable land use have to be designed in such a way that land management goals are achieved and, simultaneously, protection of biodiversity, as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is ensured. For that reason, such concepts are required for future that support overall economy and prevent loss of biodiversity.

  • Stonechat (<i>Saxicola rubicola</i>) Photo: S. Weking
  • Forest in Central Vietnam Photo: M. Schultz
  • Silver-washed fritillary (<i>Argynnis paphia</i>) Photo: S. Weking
  • Meadow steppe with meadowsweet flowers, Siberia Photo: W. Mathar
  • Angola Flower (<i>Protea gaguedi</i>) Photo: R. Rasmus
  • Lake ecosystem with aquatic plants (<i>Nymphaea nouchali</i>) in Okavango Delta, Botswana Photo: R. Rasmus

Key findings

Among other things (see additional information on webpages dedicated to the regional projects), the research results from twelve regional projects show that:

  • Politicians, decision makers and general public in the investigation areas know very little about the status and importance of regional biodiversity. Commonly, main economic interests lie in the use of available resources.

  • Comprehensive monitoring of species diversity in the landscape of a particular region can be very complex. This is because there are different indicators used to determine species richness (number of species, functional groups, number of individuals of particular species, etc.). In case of insufficient information, there is a higher risk of mistakes when making decisions about land management and land-use changes.

  • In principle, any land-use change (in addition to climate change and invasive species) leads to biodiversity change - in most cases, to biodiversity decline. The most obvious cases are when forests and extensive grasslands are transformed into uniformly cultivated fields or intensively used meadows and pastures, or when small-scale, mosaic landscapes are transformed into large, uniform landscapes.

  • In most intact natural ecosystems, construction of traffic routes and intensification of agriculture lead to degradation and fragmentation of landscape and to biodiversity decline. An integrated and systematic planning of land use is urgently needed to prevent further fragmentation of habitats.

  • Since a majority of land worldwide has already been managed by man in one form or another, land management generally leads to a more intensive use. An intensification of land use usually results in biodiversity declines.

Land system archetypes

This map reveals a pattern of global land use dividing the world into categories (“archetypes”). Each archetype is characterized by a specific combination of 32 land management indicators (including land-use intensity, and climate, environmental, and socioeconomic conditions).

The results of the research programme show, above all, that protection of species in managed landscapes is of great importance if fundamental ecosystem functions are to be maintained. To this end, it is necessary to find a balance between an increase in produced goods per area and possible declines in biodiversity. Choosing between nature conservation and intensive land use is not the goal here.

Recommendations

Protection of natural and semi-natural ecosystems can and must be strengthened if biodiversity loss is to be halted, and the Aichi Biodiversity Goals for global biodiversity protection and goals for sustainable development are to be achieved. To this end, solutions were developed in twelve research projects adapted to each particular region:

  • In many regions of the world, it is necessary to establish or maintain protected areas and intensively monitor and reinforce the nature conservation rules and regulations (see the examples from Philippines (LEGATO) or Brazil (INNOVATE)). The aim is to preserve native (endemic) species and to achieve minimum standards for species conservation.

  • It is equally important to avoid further fragmentation of landscape, create new habitats and connect existing habitats, e.g. by creating corridors or mosaic landscapes (see Philippines (LEGATO), China (SURUMER), Africa (The Future Okavango)).

  • Last but not least, appropriate measures to restore degraded ecosystems need to be implemented (see West China (SuMaRiO)).

As there is a functional dependence between biodiversity and agricultural production, protecting or even increasing biological diversity on agricultural land should be done by means of “sustainable land-use intensification”:

  • Both biodiversity and agricultural production are essential parts of conservation agriculture. It is assumed that conservation tillage results in an increase in soil organisms (see examples from Siberia (KULUNDA)).

  • A concurrent cultivation of different crops (e.g. beans and rice) reduces the risk of a total crop loss suffered by farmers (see examples from China (SUMARIO)), but at the same time it increases biodiversity.

  • It is meaningful to offer financial incentives for conservation management of landscape in order to protect nature or rehabilitate intensively used landscapes (see examples from Madagascar (SuLaMa)).

There are measures of agricultural practice that can help establish a natural balance in the ecosystems (ecological engineering, see the example from the LEGATO project in Southeast Asia).

The spectrum of used agricultural crops can be expanded to preserve or even increase biodiversity (SuMaRiO). Although these examples are still isolated cases, they serve as important exemplary models for other countries and regions.

Land management (especially management of interactions between biodiversity and use of resources) is a regionally specific task and the transferability of solutions remains a challenge. Data-based or practice-oriented approaches are the key to transferring successful solutions from individual regions (GLUES).

Further reading (selection)

Gerstner, K., Levers, C., Kuemmerle, T., Vaclavik, T., Pereira, H.M., Seppelt, R. (2017): Assessing land-use effects on European plant diversity using a biome-specific countryside species–area model. Diversity and Distributions, 23(10): 1193–1203.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12608

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Schulz, C., Koch, R., Cierjacks, A., Kleinschmit, B. (2017): Land change and loss of landscape diversity at the Caatinga phytogeographical domain - Analysis of pattern-process relationships with MODIS land cover products (2001-2012). Journal of Arid Environments, 136: 54–74.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2016.10.004

Nopper, J., Lauströer, B., Rödel, M.-O., Ganzhorn, J.U. (2016): A structurally enriched agricultural landscape maintains high reptile diversity in sub-arid south-western Madagascar. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54(2): 480–488. 
URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12752

Cierjacks, A., Pommeranz, M., Schulz, K., Almeida-Cortez, J. (2016): Is crop yield related to weed species diversity and biomass in coconut and banana fields of northeastern Brazil? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 220: 175–183.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.01.006

Bischoff, N., Mikutta, R., Shibistova,O., Puzanov, A., Reichert, E., Silanteva, M., Grebennikova, A., Schaarschmidt, F., Heinicke, S., Guggenberger, G. (2016): Land-use change under different climatic conditions: Consequences for organic matter and microbial communities in Siberian steppe soils. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 235: 253–264.
URL:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.10.022

read more

Projects

Carbiocial

Possibilities for landuse in tropical rainforests and savannahs

INNOVATE

New concepts for the sustainable reservoir use in Brazil

KULUNDA

Effects of land-use change in the Russian Kulunda Steppe

LEGATO

Innovative approaches in rice cultivation in Asia rice fields

SASCHA

New Strategies for the forest Steppe in Western Siberia

SuLaMa

Greater sustainability for south-west of Madagascar

SuMaRiO

A management plan for China’s most important cotton growing region

SURUMER

More sustainable rubber cultivation in Asian Greater Mekong Subregion

The Future Okavango

Help for fragile ecosystem of Okavango River in southern Africa

Climate change

Halting climate change is a grand societal challenge. Land-use research can play an important role in addressing this issue, as land-use change and management of soil, water, and vegetation can decrease carbon stocks through emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). These emissions amount to 20‒40 percent of the GHG emissions worldwide. On the other hand, a proper land management can lead to an increased carbon sequestration above and below ground. In the first case, land acts as a ‘C-source’ and in the latter as a ‘C-sink’. This makes the role of sustainable land management so special.

Reducing carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions plays a central role in global efforts towards climate change mitigation. Land management can be used as a tool for reducing the GHG emissions and is a key driver for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 13 (“Climate Action”).

Not only land use affects the climate, but the processes of climate change also affect the land. As precipitation patterns change, carbon dioxide in the environment increases. Rising temperatures change the composition of animal and plant species and cause changes in productivity. Clearly, as proved by many results of the Sustainable Land Management funding measure, there are many mutual interactions between land use and climate change.

Land management thus concerns two aspects of climate change: Adaptation to climate change and mitigation or even halting climate change and GHG emissions.

  • Maintenance work at the flux station during the Siberian winter Photo: E. Fleischer
  • CO<sub>2</sub> is released in the atmosphere due to slash and burn agriculture in Central Vietnam Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Climate change accelerates desert formation at the Tarim Basin Photo: P. Keilholz
  • Loss of carbon storage due to deforestation in the Mekong region Photo: M. Cotter
  • Land use change from forest to pasture in Angola Photo: B. Kowalski

Key findings

Among other things (see additional information on webpages dedicated to the regional projects), the research results from twelve regional projects show that:

Climate change mitigation is often a compromise, especially due to the long time period required until the mitigation measures take effect. For this reason, not every local stakeholder has the patience, time, resources, or desire to get involved.

Major carbon and GHG emissions occur when:

  • wetlands are drained and converted to grassland or cropland

  • land use is intensified, which results in disturbance of soil functions, reduced aggregate stability of the soil, loss of soil organic carbon (decrease in soil fertility), and a loss of vegetation and soil cover

  • land use is changed to such with lower carbon storage potential, e.g. when forests are converted into grasslands or cropland used for settlement or transportation infrastructure

Under unchanged land use, 140-340 teragrams of soil carbon can be lost in the Kulunda steppe in the 21st century, depending on the scenario. With no applied land use, i.e. by returning to the natural steppe landscape, it can be expected that these carbon losses can be overcompensated. On the other hand, further intensive use could lead to a further loss of 1050-1130 teragrams of carbon. (Example of Russian steppes: KULUNDA)

Suitability change due to climate until 2100

Change in agricultural suitability and crop suitability due to climate change for SRES A1B scenario conditions for 16 crops between 1981-2010 and 2071-2100 at a spatial resolution of 30 arcsec.

Recommendations

Many research projects have developed approaches and solutions to climate change. The recommendations vary among individual regions.

Emissions from land management and intensive farming can be reduced:

  • by sparing land with a higher carbon storage potential from conversion through sustainable intensification of already utilized land (Example from Africa: The Future Okavango)

  • by avoiding or reducing major land-use changes (e. g. deforestation, rapid urbanization, erratic urban sprawl) (Example from Brazil: Carbiocial; example from Germany: CCLandStraD)

  • by protecting wetlands and grasslands from conversion into intensively used cropland (Example from Germany: CCLandStraD)

  • by improving production systems that release high greenhouse gas emissions, e.g. by drying and wetting paddy (low-land) rice fields (Example from Vietnam: LUCCi)

If existing carbon sinks in soils with high carbon pools are to be protected, it is necessary:

  • to prevent oxidation and mineralization of organic soils caused by excessive drainage, and to maintain optimal groundwater levels (Example from China: (SuMaRiO; example from Germany: COMTESS)

  • to avoid agricultural practices and production systems that accelerate soil erosion and replace them with no-till/minimum tillage or permanent soil cover, etc. (Example from Russia: KULUNDA)

  • to avoid forest/bush clearing (Example from Brazil: Carbiocial)

  • to improve management of mineral soils through better land cover and less frequent soil disturbance. The improved management can increase carbon stocks. In coastal regions, carbon stocks may increase even at high groundwater levels, but there is a risk of methane emissions in both organic and mineral soils. (Example from Germany: COMTESS)

Carbon sequestration can be increased and carbon storage capacity can be improved by:

  • re-converting intensively used land to extensive farming systems, e.g. by rewetting organic soils or by protecting and extensification of intensively used cropland or pastures (Example from Russia: KULUNDA)

  • use of harvesting techniques and crops that enrich the above and below ground biomass (Example from Vietnam: LUCCi; example from Russia: KULUNDA)

Some strategies for climate change mitigation including re-wetting of organic soils and extensification of grassland have clear co-benefits. They protect biodiversity and increase the resilience of the whole ecosystem. (Example from Germany: COMTESS)

Further reading (selection)

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Bösch, M., Elsasser, P., Rock, J., Rüter, S., Weimar, H., Dieter, M. (2017): Costs and carbon sequestration potential of alternative forest management measures in Germany. Forest Policy and Economics, 78: 88–97.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2017.01.005

Meurer, K.H.E., Franko, U., Stange, C.F., Dalla Rosa, J., Madari, B., Jungkunst, H. (2016): Direct nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes from soils under different land use in Brazil—a critical review. Environmental Research Letters, 11(2).
URL: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/11/2/023001

Fleischer, E., Khashimov, I., Hölzel, N., Klemm, O. (2016): Carbon exchange fluxes over peatlands in Western Siberia: Possible feedback between land-use change and climate change. Science of the Total Environment, 545–546: 424–433.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.12.073

Kämpf, I., Hölzel, N., Störrle, M., Broll, G., Kiehl, K. (2016): Potential of temperate agricultural soils for carbon sequestration: A meta-analysis of land-use effects. Science of the Total Environment, 566–567: 428–435.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.067

Bischoff, N., Mikutta, R., Shibistova,O., Puzanov, A., Reichert, E., Silanteva, M., Grebennikova, A., Schaarschmidt, F., Heinicke, S., Guggenberger, G. (2016): Land-use change under different climatic conditions: Consequences for organic matter and microbial communities in Siberian steppe soils. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 235: 253–264.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.10.022

read more

Projects

Carbiocial

Possibilities for landuse in tropical rainforests and savannahs

COMTESS

A safe future for Germany’s coasts at North and Baltic Sea

CC-LandStraD

Land use in Transition in different german regions

INNOVATE

New concepts for the sustainable reservoir use in Brazil

KULUNDA

Effects of land-use change in the Russian Kulunda Steppe

LEGATO

Innovative approaches in rice cultivation in Asia rice fields

LUCCi

Sustainable land and water uses in Central Vietnam

SASCHA

New Strategies for the forest Steppe in Western Siberia

The Future Okavango

Help for fragile ecosystem of Okavango River in southern Africa

Global scientific synthesis

Decisions on land use and land management planning are made on the ground, in the field, in specific regions. Global changes, such as the climate change, technologies, trade, and consumption patterns are determined by global processes. The complex interactions together with the regional spatial heterogeneity of landscapes make sustainable land management a big challenge. Assessing the relevance of individual results from regional projects and exploring their transferability to larger scales is one of the main tasks of the “global scientific synthesis” of the GLUES project. The global scientific synthesis was based on:

  • development and provision of consistent global-scale scenarios on land use

  • provision of scientific geodata infrastructures to support exchange and communication of data and results

  • analysis and characterisation of global land systems as a socio-environmental system with respect to ecosystem services, biodiversity, etc.

  • results communication to international policy bodies (science-policy interface)

  • support of stakeholder collaboration

These activities made it possible to study the relationships between land use, ecosystem services, and biodiversity, to support the global findings with lessons learned from the regional projects, and to understand the transferability of regional solutions to other places around the world.

  • Biodiversity can lead to higher ecosystem productivity. Swallowtail (<i>Papilio machaon</i>) Photo: S. Weking
  • Botanical fieldwork conducted by Russian and German students Photo: T. Wertebach
  • Maintaining biodiversity despite land use: Spiny chameleon (<i>Furcifer verrucosus</i>). Madagascar Photo: Balten Laustroeer
  • Selective logging: Land use change and consequences for the socio-environmental system. Vietnam Photo: M. Schultz
  • Beauty of nature: Uncertainty of monetary valuation of non-market goods and services Photo: G. Hanke/UFZ
  • Agriculture expansion creates conflicts between food security and habitat conservation. Siberia Photo: P. Illiger

GLUES

GLUES is a scientific coordination and synthesis project supporting the 'Sustainable Land Management' research programme of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Key findings

Understanding global archetypical patterns of land systems is necessary to assess the impacts of land-use changes on the environment and help provide appropriate countermeasures. These archetypes can be identified based on indicators of land-use intensity, climate, environmental, and socio-economic conditions (Vaclavik et al 2013). [press release]

Climate change poses a major challenge to agriculture. However, some regions may benefit from it as well. For example, changing climate may increase the area of cropland available in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere (Canada, Russia, China) over the next 100 years. In contrast, losses of potentially suitable agricultural land are expected in Mediterranean regions and Sub-Saharan Africa (Zabel et al 2014). [press release]

The rising demand for food can be met without expansion of agricultural cropland if the land now available is optimally exploited. The stock of agricultural land currently in use has the potential to feed the growing population and even to exceed the projected demand for the year 2050. But to do so, harvests, storage, transport, throw-away mentality, etc. need to be optimized (Mauser et al 2015). [press release]

Sustainable land management – Conclusions and findings from a global research program

Scientists of twelve international research projects in global regions investigated how to use land in a sustainable way. The collected data were analyzed by the coordination and synthesis project GLUES at the UFZ.

Recommendations

If agricultural expansion continues in the future, it will likely occur in conservation areas. These potential conflict regions require more detailed assessments. Only this way the results of different food security strategies can be understood and mechanisms for the protection of habitats with high biodiversity can be developed (Delzeit et al. 2017).

Assessments of agricultural intensification focusing on yields alone overlook numerous drivers of biodiversity loss (e.g. salinization of soils, toxic run-off). A broader spectrum of land-use intensity indicators needs to be considered when balancing agricultural production and biodiversity (Gerstner et al. 2014, Kehoe et al. 2015).

Many land-based research projects are specific to a small region. The local land systems and their similarities with other places around the world should be assessed to identify regions that face similar land-use challenges. This will help translate the existing local knowledge and solutions to land management issues into many locations (Vaclavik et al. 2016). [press release]

Monetary valuation is a promising scientific tool for providing explicit values for non-market ecosystem services, implemented through Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes. These assessments should distinguish between sources of uncertainties and quantify the influence of site characteristics that affect value transfer functions and predicted ES values (Schmidt et al. 2016).

Illustrated examples

Agricultural Land Resources

The growing demand for food, feed, fibre and bioenergy increases pressure on land and brings land use/land cover changes and trade-offs between different uses of land and ecosystem services. In order to ensure food security, agricultural potentials need to be used more efficiently in the future.

It is therefore of great importance to understand global agricultural potentials and the interdependences of effects between ecological and socio-economic systems that cause the land use/land cover change.

Agricultural suitability

General agricultural suitability at a spatial resolution of 30 arcsec, considering rainfed conditions and irrigation on currently irrigated areas. The agricultural suitability represents for each pixel the maximum suitability value of the considered 16 crops (e.g. maize, oil palm, soybean).

Suitability change due to climate until 2100

Change in agricultural suitability and crop suitability due to climate change. Based on scenario calculations, this map reveals global suitability for 16 crops between 1981-2010 and 2071-2100.

Multiple crop cycles

Potential number of suitable crop cycles for 16 crops, considering rainfed conditions and irrigation on currently irrigated areas. The dataset contains four time periods (1961-1990, 1981-2010, 2011-2040, 2071-2100).

Growing cycle

Start of the growing cycle for 16 crops at a spatial resolution of 30 arcsec, considering rainfed conditions and irrigation on currently irrigated areas. In case of multiple cropping, the start of the first growing cycle is shown. The dataset contains four time periods (1961-1990, 1981-2010, 2011-2040, 2071-2100).

Archetypes

Land use changes come in various forms: meadows and grasslands are replaced by maize fields, tropical forests are cleared and used as pastures, steppes become cropland. The reasons are complex, the impacts are immense: animal and plant communities change, ecosystem functions disappear, carbon emissions contribute to climate change. Whatever happens regionally has global consequences.

In order to assess the global impacts of land use on the environment and help provide appropriate countermeasures, the GLUES research group has created a new world map of land use systems. Based on various indicators of land-use intensity, climate, environmental and socio-economic conditions, they identified twelve global patterns called land system archetypes.

Land system archetypes

Global land system archetypes: world map and regional areas revealing a clustered pattern of human–environment interactions and land-use intensity. Each archetype is characterized by a specific combination of 30+ land management indicators.

Uncertainty of monetary valuation of ecosystem services

Growing demand for resources increases the pressure on ecosystem services (ES) and biodiversity. Monetary valuation of ES is frequently seen as a decision-support tool, as it provides explicit values for unconsidered goods and services. Valuation methods, such as benefit transfer, are an attractive option for researchers and policy-makers who face resource constraints.

The team of GLUES researchers developed global benefit transfer models for twelve ES and assessed uncertainties that need to be taken into account. This analysis represents the starting point for establishing a standardized integration of and reporting on uncertainties for a reliable and valid benefit transfer as an important component for decision support.

Distribution of monetary estimates and uncertainties

The knowledge on feasible monetary valuation of ecosystem services is spatially distributed. A synthesis of case studies shows extrapolated relative monetary values (yellow to green) and uncertainties (yellow to red) of the benefit transfer functions for the ecosystem services. The monetary values and uncertainties are grouped into different classes from low to high.

Pollination benefits

In recent years the economic value of pollination-dependent crops has substantially increased around the world. Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Technical University of Dresden and the University of Freiburg found out in which regions pollination plays a particularly important role and where agriculture is even more dependent on animal pollinators.

The results of their spatial analysis provide important information for nature conservation practice and policy decisions, and enable development of region-specific recommendations for the protection of agricultural elements vital for the survival of insects.

Global pollination benefits

Pollination is one of the best studied ecosystem services, addressed also by the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) report. This world map shows the economic importance of pollination for agriculture based on yield data on pollination-dependent crops. The values are given as US $ per hectare for the year 2000 and were adjusted for the inflation rate (for the year 2009).

Further reading (selection)

Carter, S., Manceur, A.M., Seppelt, R., Hermans-Neumann, K., Herold, M., Verchot, L. (2017): Large scale land acquisitions and REDD+: A synthesis of conflicts and opportunities. Environmental Research Letters, 12(3): 35010.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6056

Gerstner, K., Moreno-Mateos, D., Gurevitch, J., Beckmann, M., Kambach, S., Jones, H.P., Seppelt, R. (2017): Will your paper be used in a meta-analysis? Make the reach of your research broader and longer lasting. Edited by David Warton. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 8(6): 777–84.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12758

Liniger, H.P., Mekdaschi Studer, R., Moll, P., Zander, U. (2017): Making sense of research for sustainable land management. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland and Helmholtz- Centre for Environmental Research GmbH (UFZ), Leipzig.
URL: www.ufz.de/makingsense

Delzeit, R., Zabel, F., Meyer, C., Václavík, T. (2017): Addressing future trade-offs between biodiversity and cropland expansion to improve food security. Regional Environmental Change, 17(5): 1429-1441.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-0927-1

Václavík, T., Langerwisch, F., Cotter, M., Fick, J., Häuser, I., Hotes, S., Kamp, J., Settele, J., Spangenberg, J.H., Seppelt, R. (2016): Investigating potential transferability of place-based research in land system science. Environmental Research Letters, 11(9): 095002.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/11/9/095002

van Vliet, J., Magliocca, N.R., Büchner, B., Cook, El, Rey Benayas, J.M., Ellis, E.C., Heinimann, A., et al. (2016): Meta-studies in land use science: Current coverage and prospects. Ambio, 45(1): 15–28.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-015-0699-8

Schmidt, S., Manceur, A.M., Seppelt, R. (2016): Uncertainty of monetary valued ecosystem services – Value transfer functions for global mapping. PLoS ONE, 11(3): e0148524.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148524

Kehoe, L., Kuemmerle, T., Meyer, C., Levers, C., Václavík, T., Kreft, H. (2015): Global patterns of agricultural land‐use intensity and vertebrate diversity. Diversity and Distributions, 21(11): 1308–1318.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12359

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Science portrait

Global change in a regional context

Science portrait

International teams of scientists are investigating changing land use in twelve regions worldwide, in a research programme funded by the German government. The GLUES scientific coordination and synthesis project aims to link up the individual sub-projects and to conduct scientific analyses. Its mission is ambitious: the project strives to demonstrate the need to use land sustainably.

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GLUES Geoportal

The Geodata Infrastructure (GDI) was designed by the Department of Geosciences at the TU Dresden to support a technical collaboration within GLUES and among the regional projects of the Sustainable Land Management programme and to enable analysis and synthesis of global and regional data sets on land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and ecosystem services.

Furthermore, the GLUES GDI provides technical components for the external presentation of the project.

The GLUES GDI has the following main objectives:

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Participatory videos/TV series

Participatory videos – sharing local perspectives and research results

Understanding the local perspectives on natural resources, their use, their value and their threats presents a challenge for scientists. Communicating the research results relevant to the local users is similarly difficult. Therefore, four participatory videos were created within the Future Okavango project.

In one video, for example, local land users present in a playful and humorous way the values, benefits, and threats of the natural resources such as The Okavango River or wild animal species. Another video offers project results that might be relevant to the land users. The videos were produced in the local languages and provided with English subtitles.

Sharing The Future Okavango research results

The film shows how research results are conveyed to villagers in Angola, Namibia, and Botswana.

Honey-Huchi

The film “Honey” illustrates the process of honey production in the Cusseque/Angola region.

Sephiri sa Tikologo ya Rona - The Secret of Our Environment

Through interviews and excerpts from a workshop, the film shows how natural resources are integrated into a daily life of the people in the Seronga/Botswana region.

Liparu Lyetu - Our Life

The film shows how villagers in the Mashare/Namibia region handle natural resources.

TV-series

Scientists, video producers, local authorities, and employees of the Vinh Long TV station have jointly developed a concept for 40 episodes of the series that should inform the viewers about sustainable rice cultivation. The 15 minute episodes divided in two parts were always aired on Saturdays and repeated on Sundays. In the first long section of each episode, professional actors appeared in the soap opera. Afterwards, scientists explained in brief interviews the purpose of certain management measures used in rice cultivation or ecological relationships such as the dependence of pollinators on the diversity of habitats.

After all episodes were shown, the scientists evaluated the TV series and found out that the soap opera had an impact on farmers’ working days. About 60 percent of the surveyed farmers had watched the individual episodes. They used nineteen percent less insecticides and applied six percent less nitrogen fertilizers in comparison to those farmers who had not watched the series.

Opening film of the TV series

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Making Sense of Research – Research for Practical Application in Land Management

Globally, twelve million hectares of fertile, harvestable land are lost every year. Soils suffer from aridisation, salinisation, and overexploitation. The loss of soil fertility is therefore one of the key societal challenges of managing natural resources. The “Making sense of research for sustainable land management” book presents land-use solutions for more sustainable use of the environment and existing ecosystems while taking into account aspects of climate change.

The book outlines land management practices that have been tested by researchers in twelve globally distributed projects of the "Sustainable Land Management" research programme. The programme has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) over a seven-year period. Investigations were carried out to assess interaction between land use, climate change, loss of biodiversity, population growth, globalisation, and urbanisation. The focus was on regions particularly exposed to global and local changes, such as climate change or fluctuations on the world market. These regions include steppes in Russia, tropical rainforests in Brazil, coastal landscapes of the North and Baltic Seas or forests and river landscapes in China and Vietnam.

The practical examples are as diverse as locally specific. They concern

The methods and recommendations listed in the book are based on the expertise of some 600 researchers and other local land-management stakeholders. The target groups and potential users include local initiatives, land owners and users, regional and national institutions, government representatives, entrepreneurs, and non-governmental organisations. All in all, more than 30 implementation-oriented examples, illustrated with photos and graphics, have been compiled by some 140 authors of the WOCAT book.

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LandYOUs: How to use land? You decide!

An online game for exploring complex relationships of land management

Who would not enjoy running a country while successfully scoring points and goals?

In this game, the player steps into the role of a politician for ten rounds and manages his country through various policies. The main goal is to invest capital to achieve an economic, social, and ecological success at the same time. In each round, a simple map illustrates the changing distribution of different land-use types ‒ settlement, agriculture, forestry, and protected land. Limitations of land and external price fluctuations pose an additional challenge. When the satisfaction of people drops to the minimum or the environment is destroyed during the course of the game, the politician is removed from office and the game is over.

LandYOUs has been developed for interested pupils and students with the intention to demonstrate interactions between investments, land use, and different success factors. The simulation map shows changes in the spread of the individual types of land use and changes in the social, ecological, and economic situation of the country. Anyone who discovers the complex relationships in time and makes balanced investments not only withstands ten rounds but also scores successfully. Who dares to face this challenge?

Schulze, J., Martin, R., Finger, A., Henzen, C., Lindner, M.,Pietzsch, K., Werntze, A., Zander, U., Seppelt, R. (2015): Design, implementation and test of a serious online game for exploring complex relationships of sustainable land management and human well-being. Environmental Modelling & Software, 65: 58–66.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2014.11.029

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Prof. Dr. Ralf Seppelt
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Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Department of Computational Landscape Ecology

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About

GLUES (Global Assessment of Land Use Dynamics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Ecosystem Services) was a scientific coordination and synthesis project. It was coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) between 2009 and 2017. The main goals were providing of support to twelve international projects conducting synthesis and research on the global scale. GLUES and the twelve regional projects were funded within the Sustainable Land Management funding program (http://modul-a.nachhaltiges-landmanagement.de/index.php?id=99) as part of the research program for sustainable development (FONA, www.fona.de) by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). All projects funded in this program focused on the interactions between land management, climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem services. The research activities aimed to contribute to the development and implementation of practical solutions for global and regional challenges of land management. It sought to develop new perspectives on the responsible use of scarce land resources.

GLUES partners

only first GLUES part (2009-2014):

only second GLUES part (2014-2017):

list of regional projects

The Future Okavango

Scientific support for sustainable land and resource management in the Okavango basin

www.future-okavango.org

COMTESS

Sustainable coastal land management: Trade-offs in ecosystem services

www.comtess.uni-oldenburg.de

LEGATO

Land-use intensity and ecological engineering – Assessment tools for risks and opportunities in irrigated rice based production systems

http://legato-project.net

SULAMA

Participatory research to support sustainable land management on the Mahafaly Plateau in South-western Madagascar

www.sulama.de

SuMaRiO

Sustainable management of river oases along the Tarim River / China

www.sumario.de

Carbiocial

Carbon sequestration, biodiversity and social structures in Southern Amazonia: models and implementation of carbon-optimized land management strategies

www.carbiocial.de

LUCCi

Land-use and climate change interactions in the Vu Gia Thu Bon River Basin, Central Vietnam

www.lucci-vietnam.info

INNOVATE

Interplay between the multiple uses of water reservoirs via innovative coupling of substance cycles in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems

www.innovate.tu-berlin.de

SASCHA

Sustainable land management and adaptation strategies to climate change for the Western Siberian corn-belt

www.uni-muenster.de/SASCHA

KULUNDA

How to prevent the next »Global Dust Bowl«? Ecological and economic strategies for sustainable land management in the Russian steppes: A potential solution to climate change

www.kulunda.eu

CC-LandStraD

Interdependencies between land-use and climate change – Strategies for a sustainable land-use management in Germany

www.cc-landstrad.de/

SURUMER

Sustainable rubber cultivation in the Mekong Region – Development of an integrative land-use concept in Yunnan Province / China

https://surumer.uni-hohenheim.de

administrative management

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funded by

Logo Sustainable Landmanagement
Logo BMBFLogo FONA

More information about the research program “Sustainable Land Management” can be found at:

http://nachhaltiges-landmanagement.de

(not updated anymore since 1st of July 2017)

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  • Land use in the North Sea coastal zones, Germany Photo: H. P. Liniger
  • Cattle grazing on grasslands of Eastern Frisia Photo: H. Timmermann
  • Dune erosion in the 'Heiligensee und Hütelmoor' nature conservation area on the Baltic coast Photo: M. Kleyer
  • Harbor in Petkum, Eastern Frisia Photo: M. Kleyer
  • Managed realignment in the 'Insel Koos, Kooser See und Wampener Riff' nature conservation area Photo: J. Mantilla-Contreras
  • Drainage ditches in Eastern Frisia, North Sea coast Photo: H. Timmermann
  • Sheep grazing in a polder in Zeeland, The Netherlands Photo: M. Kleyer
  • Dunes and beach at Ahrenshoop, Darss-Zingst Photo: H. Timmermann

About the project - COMTESS

Climate change threatens coastal areas of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea primarily through accelerated sea level rise, increasing storm surges, and increasing winter rainwater discharge. Accelerating sea level rise and changes in hydrological cycles are likely to affect coastal ecosystems and may restrict the efficiency of existing protective measures in the future.

Based on a stakeholder analysis and iterative stakeholder involvement, COMTESS performed an inter- and transdisciplinary investigation of four land management options, applied to the German coastal regions of the North and Baltic Seas: (1) In the “Trend” land management option, a continuation of the current land management is expected. This form of management, however, may be seriously affected by flooding and associated costs for water drainage, which reduce the ecological and economic viability of this land use. (2) “Water management/multiple land use” (for the North Sea and Baltic Sea, respectively), stands for investigating the influence of freshwater polders (at the North Sea) and managed realignment (at the Baltic Sea) on the drainage capabilities and on salinization. The primary goal is to strengthen the resilience of the coastal zones against sea level rise and increased winter precipitation. (3) In the “Carbon sequestration” management option the coastal areas are dominated by natural reed stands that lead to active peat accumulation and removal of carbon from the atmosphere. This land management option shows how natural vegetation can be restored if agricultural land use is abandoned.

These three land management options serve as a basis for the fourth, “actor-based” land management option, developed by local and regional stakeholders. Interviews and other methods were used to create this option according to the expectations and interests of the participating stakeholders. All four land management options were combined with three climate change scenarios and three sea level rise scenarios in a spatiotemporal explicit, full-factorial design. For two regions at the North Sea and Baltic Sea coast, COMTESS used ecological production functions to predict the effects of these combinations on the following ecosystem services: forage production, biomass production for biogas, carbon sequestration, water retention, sense of belonging, touristic attractiveness, feeling of safety, and plant and bird conservation value. These predictions were made in yearly time steps until 2100. For the spatial transfer of results to other coastal regions, additional ecological studies were performed in the Netherlands (Zeeland) and in Denmark (Aarhus region).

Funding period: January 2011 to December 2017
Funding: 3.3 million Euros
Leading research institution: Institute of Biology and Environmental Sciences University of Oldenburg

Photo: Andreas Rehmann

Interview

with the project head Michael Kleyer

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable landmanagement?

First result: Dykes at the North Sea are relatively safe. The main consequence of climate change may not be catastrophic inundations by storm surges, but rather drowning by rain water, as natural discharge of surface freshwater will probably be impossible in the future, when the sea level may rise above the land elevation even at ebb tide.
Second result: Soils matter. At the North Sea coast, thick clay layers seal the surface from deeper aquifers connected to the sea. Therefore, surface water can effectively be pumped into the sea, even with higher sea levels in the future. In contrast, the soils of the Baltic Sea coastline are sandy and very well permeable for sea water. In case of sea level rise, pumping is no option, because sea water will immediately flow back into the drained areas as subterranean groundwater, even if the coast is protected by dykes. This makes the Baltic Sea coast more vulnerable to sea level rise than the North Sea coast.
Third result: Carbon sequestration by peat formation is not as straightforward as we assumed. Under freshwater conditions, carbon sequestration by peat formation is offset by methane production when water levels are variable between years. This is a critical issue for the land management options involving water retention polders. However, if saline water is allowed to permeate in the polders, methane production does not take place. This points to a polder solution which connects sea water with freshwater.
Fourth result: Trade-offs between ecosystem services are often resolved by separation in space. For instance, the trade-off between forage production and biodiversity conservation is resolved by allocating conservation areas in front of the dyke and production areas behind the dyke. With sea level rise, however, the separation approach in coastal spatial planning is no longer feasible and integrative approaches are necessary in the future.

What were the lessons learnt from the COMTESS project?

It is possible to predict ecosystem service outputs until year 2100 and to analyze trade-offs in a spatiotemporal explicit way, something rarely done so far. However, with a modelling chain as complicated as in COMTESS, mistakes during the collection of primary data can substantially delay the completion of the project.

In which way can the results of COMTESS be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

Coastal regions are among the most vulnerable regions in the world, due to combined effects of changes in temperatures and precipitation on the one hand and sea level rise on the other hand. Our results are transferable to other coastal regions worldwide also characterized by land elevations close to sea level.


Prof. Dr. Michael Kleyer works at the University of Oldenburg.

Publications

Kliesch, S., Behr, L., Salzmann, T., Miegel, K. (2016): Simulation des Grundwasserhaushalts in ausgewählten Niederungsgebieten an der deutschen Ostseeküste. Hydrologie und Wasserbewirtschaftung, 60(2): 108–118.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5675/HyWa_2016,2_1

Lara, J.L., Maza, M., Ondiviela, B., Trinogga, J., Losada, I.J., Bouma, T.J., Gordejuela, N. (2016): Large-scale 3-D experiments of wave and current interaction with real vegetation. Part 1: Guidelines for physical modeling. Coastal Engineering, 107: 70–83.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coastaleng.2015.09.012

Miegel, K., Selle, B., Gräff, T., Walther, M., Salzmann, T., Behr, L., Oswald, S., Bronstert, A. (2016): Wasserhaushalt und Salzdynamik eines küstennahen Niedermoores im Grenzbereich zwischen Binnenland und Ostsee unter sich ändernden Bedingungen. Forum für Hydrologie und Wasserbewirtschaftung, 37.16: 45–54.
URL: https://doi.org/10.14617/for.hydrol.wasbew.37.16

Witte, S., Giani, L. (2016): Greenhouse gas emission and balance of marshes at the Southern North Sea coast. Wetlands, 36(1): 121–132.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-015-0722-7

Engler, J.O., Baumgärtner, S. (2015): Model choice and size distribution: A Bayequentist approach. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 97(3): 978–997.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aau034

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Science portrait

A safe future for Germany’s coasts

Science portrait

Climate change will affect Germany’s coastal landscape – this much seems certain. But what can be done to protect humans and the landscape from the effects of climate change in the future? Scientists in the research project COMTESS are working out scenarios aimed at assisting the decision-makers in politics and government with the generational challenge of coastal protection.

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COMTESS

Introduction of the regional project COMTESS - Sustainable coastal land management: Trade-offs in ecosystem services

Adapting to climate change on the German North Sea coast

In the East  Frisian Lowlands agricultural use of the land below sea level is only possible with water level regulation


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  • Cattle at a water hole, Mahafaly Plateau Photo: J. Goetter
  • The Baobab tree with its vast water storing trunk Photo: S. Kobbe
  • Children playing at threshing beans, Mahafaly Plateau Photo: J. Goetter
  • The Baobab trees are characteristic for the Madagascar’s dry regions, Mahafaly Plateau Photo: J. Haertel
  • Zebus not only serve as working animals and a source of meat but also represent a status symbol and an investment Photo: D. Plugge
  • Returning home to the Ampasindava village, Mahafaly Plateau Photo: J. Goetter
  • Cattle grazing on the Mahafaly Plateau Photo: J. Goetter

About the project - SuLaMa

Population growth, increasing poverty, lack of education and the possible effects of climate change exacerbate the already existing pressure on ecosystems in many regions of the world. The SuLaMa (Sustainable Land management in south-western Madagascar) project aimed to tackle this topic in one of the poorest and most climatically disadvantaged regions in south-western Madagascar – the Mahafaly Plateau.

The main objective of SuLaMa was a participatory development and implementation of alternative land-use management practices to protect the ecosystem and its biodiversity and to improve the livelihood of the local population in a sustainable manner.

SuLaMa aimed to explore sustainable alternatives to traditional land-use techniques in a region that is characterized by strong degradation. Unsustainable land-use techniques in the whole southern region of Madagascar have caused forest fragmentation, soil degradation, and loss of endemic animal and plant species, impairing livelihoods of local populations and leading to destruction of a unique ecosystem.

In consideration of global change and population growth, SuLaMa focused on approaches for sustainable land use that allow the locals to live on husbandry, agriculture and forest products but at the same time preserve the natural resources. Applying a participatory approach, SuLaMa recognized the interests of local stakeholders and respected their rites, customs and habits by involving them directly in the development of the sustainable land-use practices.

Based on transdisciplinary research and the intense collaboration with the regional partners and stakeholders, the project developed feasible and sustainable forms of land use as well as long-term structures for capacity building and knowledge transfer. In this process sociological as well as economic and scientific issues were combined. The project examined the links and interactions between current forms of land use and relevant ecosystem services and functions.

Funding period: January 2011 to December 2016
Funding: 6.6 million Euros
Leading research institution: University of Hamburg

article image

Interview

with the project head Jörg Ganzhorn

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

SuLaMa identified yet unknown drivers of the excessive deforestation in the region and outlined a number of options on how to improve the livelihoods of people and to combine it with the conservation of native biodiversity. These options include plantations of fodder plants, propagation of wild yams, maintaining hedges to protect fields and serve as a habitat for endemic species. The results also provide guidelines for more efficient utilization of ground water.
SuLaMa also provided quantitative data that illustrate limitations of the area for utilization of natural resources (such as water, wood, bushmeat) and livestock production.

What were the lessons learnt from the SuLaMa project?

SuLaMa illustrated the urgent need to define goals and to design a plan for applied research, implementation, management, and monitoring in close collaboration with local stakeholders, particularly those who are the target of the intervention. They need to be given a voice that does reflect their needs and interests, and not political opportunism. One of the strengths of SuLaMa was the tight collaboration between the Malagasy and German researchers and PhD students who always worked in tandems with one member from each country.

In which way can the results of SuLaMa be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

The SuLaMa project area is subject to a globally unique climate variability. The main coping strategy of people is a high diversification of possible sources of income. The transfer seems most promising in terms of methodological approaches, such as tight interactions with people on the ground, role-playing games to assess coping strategies, and tandem collaborations of researchers.


Prof. Dr. Jörg Ganzhorn works at the University of Hamburg.

Publications

Nopper, J., Lauströer, B., Rödel, M.-O., Ganzhorn, J.U. (2016): A structurally enriched agricultural landscape maintains high reptile diversity in sub-arid south-western Madagascar. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54(2): 480–488. 
URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12752

Goetter, J.F., Neudert, R. (2016): New rules are not rules: Privatization of pastoral commons and local attempts at curtailment in southwest Madagascar. International Journal of the Commons, 10(2): 617–641.
URL: https://doi.org/10.18352/ijc.743

Noromiarilanto, F., Brinkmann, K., Faramalala, M.H., Buerkert, A. (2016): Assessment of food self-sufficiency in smallholder farming systems of south-western Madagascar using survey and remote sensing data. Agricultural Systems, 149: 139–149.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2016.09.005

Feldt, T., Neudert, R., Fust, P., Schlecht, E. (2016): Reproductive and economic performance of local livestock in southwestern Madagascar: potentials and constraints of a highly extensive system. Agricultural Systems, 149: 54–64.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2016.08.007

Ranaivoson, T., Brinkmann, K., Rakouth, B., Buerkert, A. (2015): Distribution, biomass and local importance of tamarind trees in south-western Madagascar. Global Ecology and Conservation, 4: 14–25.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2015.05.004

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Science portrait

Greater sustainability for Madagascar

Science portrait

The south-west of Madagascar is regarded as one of the poorest parts of the island. For the people who live here, survival is often difficult in this region plagued by drought. Now, however, experts from Germany and Madagascar are trying not only to improve the living conditions of the native population but also to ensure better protection of the island’s unique flora and fauna in the SuLaMa research project.

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SuLaMa

Introduction of the regional project SuLaMa

Sustainable use of Samata Tree

Propagation of “samata” cuttings for long-term provision of supplementary livestock fodder

Role Play Games

Participatory simulation to foster stakeholder dialogue, conciliate resource conflicts and facilitate participatory land use planning.


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  • Various land use at Siegmündung/Bonn Photo: aid infodienst
  • Motorways: Land requirements for infrastructure are on the rise Photo: S. Hufe
  • The Rhine-Main region: Agricultural production in the urban agglomeration Photo: M. Bathke
  • Land use for urbanization and infrastructure Photo: A. Künzelmann
  • Forestry work: Harvested and handled timber Photo: J. Fick
  • Land use: Agriculture Farming Photo: J. Fick
  • Different land uses on the Danube Plain near Ulm Photo: J. Fick

About the project - CC-LandStraD

Land surface in Germany is used intensively. Land fulfills many societal requirements including production of food, energy and wood, provision of area for settlement and transportation infrastructure and recreation. Global changes such as climate change and the globalization of economic systems will increase competition for the limited land resources that exist between the various societal demands in Germany and in many other regions of the world.

How to integrate aspects of preserving an intact environment, climate mitigation, and sustainable resource management into this complex realm of land use conflicts was the research focus of the joint project CC-LandStraD: “Interdependencies between Land use and Climate Change – Strategies for a sustainable land use management in Germany”.

Funding period: November 2010 to April 2016
Funding: 3.6 million Euros
Leading research institution: Institute of Rural Studies, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Braunschweig

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Interview

with the project head Peter Weingarten

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

One of our main questions was how land use can contribute to the mitigation of climate change. We found out that appropriate combinations of the “climate mitigation” and “nature and environmental conservation” scenarios can lead to viable synergies. For example, rewetting approximately one third of the organic soils currently used by the German agriculture can decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 5 million tons CO2-equivalent per year, with mitigation costs of 100 to 200 Euro/t CO2-equivalent.

In the forestry sector, the climate change mitigation performance is heavily dependent on the stability and productivity of the forests, which are being managed on the basis of long production periods. In the settlement and transportation sector it is similarly important to look both at climate change mitigation and climate adaptation measures because of the long-term planning and production periods. Our results show that the mitigation of climate change and adaption measures for settlement areas do not necessarily counteract each other. When a compact settlement uses potentials of inner development and is accompanied by a focused consideration of high quality green areas, a combination of climate change mitigation and adaption measures can be achieved; for example, when brownfield areas recycling is combined with unsealing, or when creation of “green” and “blue” structures (green and water areas) and air exchange corridors is strived for in urban densification.

What were the lessons learnt from the CC-LandStraD project?

The CC-LandStraD project focused on a cross-sectoral analysis of interdependencies between climate change and land use by looking at agriculture, forestry, settlement, and transportation. We involved stakeholders from all sectors over the project period of five years. This approach is demanding for both researchers and stakeholders since it requires time and resources and a well-managed participation process. At the same time, however, it is also a very fruitful process leading to balanced and sustainable land-use strategies.

In which way can the results of CC-LandStraD be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

a) Into other regions of the world

We have chosen Germany as our study site because it represents a great example of land-use dynamics of a developed high-tech country in a temperate climate zone. Since land-use processes are determined on different spatial scales influencing the practicability of measures, it was advisable to conduct case studies.

Our methodological approach based on an integrated modelling, analyses of scenarios, strategies and measures as well as on a participation of stakeholders can be transferred to other regions. However, the transfer requires creation of adequate models or adjustment of existing models for other countries and regions as well as a suitable data base. Fortunately, a modular design of the integrated modelling facilitates a flexible adjustment to other regions.

b) Into practice

To date, the received feedback on CC-LandStraD has been very positive. The transfer of results is eased by the intensive stakeholder engagement which was a substantial part of CC-LandStraD. Already during the project period we received cooperation requests by other projects and initiatives, as well as invitations to present project findings to different audiences, which both reflect the relevance of our project findings. These interests, e.g., by federal institutions, associations, and regional stakeholders (such as regional development organizations), showed the importance of the research done by CC-LandStraD. The involved stakeholders supported a co-production of knowledge within an intensive science-practice dialogue, cross-sectoral cooperation, multi-level consultations, broad dialogue and participatory assessment.

The CC-LandStraD findings can be fed into policy-making processes and decision processes on various levels and time lines. To name one example, findings of CC-LandStraD were mentioned in the climate change mitigation report of the German Scientific Advisory Boards of Agricultural Policy, Food and Consumer Health Protection and of Forest Policy of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat Agrarpolitik, Ernährung und gesundheitlicher Verbraucherschutz und Wissenschaftlicher Beirat Waldpolitik beim BMEL 2016).


Prof. Dr. Peter Weingarten works as the director of the Institute of Rural Studies, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute.

Publications

Bösch, M., Elsasser, P., Rock, J., Rüter, S., Weimar, H., Dieter, M. (2017): Costs and carbon sequestration potential of alternative forest management measures in Germany. Forest Policy and Economics, 78: 88–97.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2017.01.005

Fick, J. et al. (2016): Wechselwirkungen zwischen Landnutzung und Klimawandel. Ausgewählte Ergebnisse des Forschungsvorhabens CC-LandStraD. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut.
URL: http://www.cc-landstrad.de/fileadmin/cc-landstrad/Downloads_DE/STA-Broschuere_final.pdf  

Fick, J., Weingarten, P. (2016): Klimaschutz, Landnutzung, Landmanagement - Erkenntnisse aus dem Verbundforschungsprojekt CC-LandStraD. Landentwicklung Aktuell, pp. 38–40.
URL: https://www.blg-berlin.de/blgfiles/uploads/BLG_LA_2016.pdf

Hoymann, J., Goetzke, R. (2016): Simulation and Evaluation of Urban Growth for Germany including Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Measures. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 5(7): 101.
URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi5070101

Gutsch, M., Lasch-Born, P., Suckow, F., Reyer, C.P.0. (2016): Evaluating the productivity of four main tree species in Germany under climate change with static reduced models. Annals of Forest Science, 73(2): 401–410.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13595-015-0532-3

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Science portrait

Land use in transition

Science portrait

Land in Germany is already used intensively and now it shall also be used to cushion the impacts of climate change. Researchers want to demonstrate how this can be successful in an inter- and transdisciplinary project: They are working on a nationwide strategy for intelligent land management practices.

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CC-LandStraD

Introduction of the regional project CC-LandStraD

Landnutzung im Zeichen des Klimawandels - Unsere Dörfer und Städte (only german)

A video about how land use in times of climate change might influence life in villages and cities.

Landnutzung im Zeichen des Klimawandels - Unsere Felder und Wiesen (only german)

A video about how land use in times of climate change might influence fields and pastures.

Landnutzung im Zeichen des Klimawandels - Unsere Wälder (only german)

A video about how land use in times of climate change might influence forests.


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  • Rainforests in Pará are being felled to make way for pasture Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Fragmented landscape with agro-industrial farming (Central Mato Grosso) Photo: G. Gerold
  • Only a few animal species such as the nandu can survive in soya monocultures Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Cotton bales in the cleared agricultural landscape of Central Brazil Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • The Nelore cattle breed is often reared on large farms as it is well adapted to the tropical climate Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Intensive soya and maize crops make a stark contrast with the rainforest near Sinop Photo: S. Hohnwald
  • Species-rich combined agro-silvopastoral systems help to manage land sustainably Photo: S. Hohnwald

About the project - Carbiocial

The Carbiocial project investigated viable carbon-optimized land management strategies maintaining ecosystem services under changing climate and societal conditions in Southern Amazonia. Scientific results in this field support the goals set by the Brazilian National plans (e.g. ABC-program) and international treaties such as REDD and the Kyoto protocol.

Accordingly, the joint main goals of the interdisciplinary research cluster were 1) to perform region-specific analyses in order to improve and apply interdisciplinary sets of models of land-use impacts on carbon-stocks, water and GHG balances, 2) to develop and optimize land management strategies that minimize carbon losses and GHG emission and maximize carbon sequestration, 3) to assess trade-offs between technical and legal land management options and socio-economic impacts in terms of GHG reduction, profitability and ecological sustainability, and last but not least 4) to support the Brazilian partners in their efforts to implement the optimized techniques in practice, considering the soy bean value chain, the overall carbon balance and the capacities of legal enforcement.

All research and implementation activities included a direct involvement of stakeholders, whether as on-farm-partner or as interview partner. Building on the land-systems approach, a modelling framework has been developed. On different scale levels it combines land-use models with different types of environmental and agro-economic models. This computer-based decision support instrument includes simulation models to run region-specific impacts of different scenarios of land-use options and climate change on water-cycling, erosion, GHG, C-cycling, crop yields, and improved land management strategies on farm level. This is a highly valuable tool for regional planning authorities, farmer organizations and communities. As practical recommendations, popular-science “Policy Briefs” were developed and distributed to the stakeholders in the research region, Belém and Brasília.

Funding period: June 2011 to June 2016
Funding: 6.1 million Euros
Leading research institution: Institute of Geography, Landscape Ecology, University of Göttingen

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Interview

with the project head Gerhard Gerold

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

We developed four main scenarios of land-use changes and land management until 2030 based on the LandSHIFT and MPMAS/MONICA modeling results. With these simulation results viable win-win strategies for GHG-optimized land-use systems were identified. Loss of rainforests was considerably lower in the ‘Legal Intensification’ scenario in contrast to the ‘Trend’ scenario (highest loss, pasture expansion) indicating that effective governance and protection of natural habitats play an important role in the efforts to reduce deforestation. With the Brazilian ABC Program (providing credit for integrated crop, livestock and forestry systems), the simulations suggest an increase in more deeply integrated crop-livestock-forestry and crop-forestry systems. However, both impact and cost-effectiveness of the ABC Program vary significantly. Tailoring financing conditions to smaller geographical units and improving local agricultural service could decrease the implementation costs of this program and increase its effectiveness. An effective implementation of the cattle moratorium and the property cadaster combined with efforts on intensification of existing farm areas are also of great importance when trying to curb deforestation and decrease GHG.

The optimization of crop management practices is necessary in order to achieve the assumed crop yield increase within the scenarios (Land use change (LUC) and Climate change (CC)). The MPMAS_MONICA coupled model system has a graphical user interface (GUI) and provides visualized information on simulated optimal land use, crop yields, per-hectare gross margins of different land-use activities and total profit of the farms.

Environmental impacts were assessed based on the output of the land-use models. Soil organic carbon (SOC) stock changes and direct GHG emissions from soils varied significantly between the scenarios and were mainly driven by the underlying soil type and the area of converted natural land. Emissions of N2O and CH4 from Brazilian soils were found to be low across the country. For the erosion risk and water balance (discharge) simulations on a macro-catchment level the scenarios with the highest transformation of forest cover to pasture and cropland had the strongest negative effects. Our simulation results proved that these effects can be avoided by flat terracing and no-tillage systems.

What were the lessons learnt from the Carbiocial project?

Development of high-resolution models for the whole region and the ability to simulate interplay of the different drivers of land-use change with inclusion of “story lines” in an explicit manner is a prerequisite to getting practical viable land-use management options for stakeholders. New scientific insights were gained from the field measurements that formed the foundation especially of the model-based analysis of the environmental impacts. Detailed mechanistic model applications in daily time steps were found to be too sophisticated for regional approaches. The same applied to soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, which were hardly affected by a change in land-use system (although noticeable differences were observed between individual soil types). It became clear that a comprehensive analysis of processes taking place in the investigated land systems was only possible by combining different models.

And finally, we came to conclusion that the inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration needs a lot of time and effort to become effective.

In which way can the results of Carbiocial be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

The Carbiocial modelling framework is a first step towards knowledge integration that could be transferred to future research projects and other regions. An important prerequisite is a clear definition of interfaces for an exchange of information not only between models but also between the responsible scientists in order to adequately portray the interplay between societal and environmental aspects.
A graphical user interface (GUI) has been designed to support decisions of local land users. Using this interface, the users can apply MPMAS and MONICA to help improving their farm planning. After providing both location and size of the farm, for which they want to perform the simulations, the GUI displays results of the respective model computations. The LUC and CC scenario results provide a frame for regional planning authorities, while the “Policy Briefs” supply stakeholders on different scales (estate, region, municipalities and farmer organizations) with practical recommendations.


Prof. Dr. Gerhard Gerold works at the Institute of Geography, University of Göttingen.

Publications

Boy, J., Strey, S., Schönenberg, R., Weber-Santos, O., Nendel, C., Klingler, M., Schumann, C., Hartberger, K., Strey, R., Guggenberger, G. (2016): Seeing the forest not for the carbon: why concentrating on land-use-induced carbon stock changes of soils in Brazil can be climate-unfriendly. Regional Environmental Change, pp 13.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1008-1

Carauta, M. (2016): Combating Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Options for National and Global Governance. International Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Research, 2(2): 268–284.
URL: http://ijaer.in/uploads/ijaer_02__16.pdf

Lamparter, G., Nobrega, R.L.B., Kovacs, K., Amorim, R.S., Gerold, G. (2016): Modelling hydrological impacts of agricultural expansion in two macro-catchments in Southern Amazonia, Brazil. Regional Environmental Change, pp. 1–13.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1015-2

Meurer, K.H.E., Franko, U., Stange, C.F., Dalla Rosa, J., Madari, B., Jungkunst, H. (2016): Direct nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes from soils under different land use in Brazil—a critical review. Environmental Research Letters, 11(2).
URL: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/11/2/023001

Müller, H., Griffiths, P., Hostert, P. (2016): Long-term deforestation dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon—Uncovering historic frontier development along the Cuiabá–Santarém highway. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 44: 61–69.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jag.2015.07.005

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Science portrait

New strategies for Southern Amazonia

Science portrait

The forests in the Amazon region play a key role in absorbing the worldwide effects of climate change. The way in which the region’s farmers manage their land is therefore of critical importance. An international research team led by the University of Göttingen wants to help to ensure greater sustainability in land-use.

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Carbiocial

Introduction of the regional project Carbiocial - Carbon sequestration, biodiversity and social structures in Southern Amazonia


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  • View of the reservoir in the town of Petrolândia Photo: V. Rodorff
  • The food plant opuntia and coconut palms in the Apolônio Sales irrigation project Photo: M. Siegmund-Schultze
  • A farmer with his sheep and goat flock in Itacuruba Photo: M. Siegmund-Schultze
  • Self-financed installation of improved irrigation infrastructure in Icó-Mandates Photo: M. Siegmund-Schultze
  • Fish farming in the Itaparica Reservoir - nearly always with Tilapia (<i>Oreochromis niloticus</i>) Photo: M. Guschal
  • Tucunaré (<i>Chicla sp.</i>) from the Intaparica reservoir Photo: M. Koshkin
  • The damm wall of the Intaparica reservoir Photo: V. Rodorff

About the project - INNOVATE

The core objective of the project was designing an innovative coupling of substance cycles evaluated on macro, meso and local scales, and embedded in societal structures. Due to a very extreme and long-lasting drought during the study period, the focus was on sustainable management of scarce natural resources. The project covered the São Francisco River Basin and focused on municipalities adjacent to the Itaparica Reservoir on its Pernambucan side. Empirical research was conducted, primarily covering small-scale fish, livestock and crop farming conditions. Main lessons derived from the research are potentially transferrable to other watersheds and semi-arid regions.

Funding period: January 2012 to December 2016
Funding: 5.1 million Euros plus Brazilian funds
Leading research institution: Environmental Assessment and Planning Research Group, Berlin Institute of Technology (Technische Universität Berlin)

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Interview

with the project head Johann Köppel

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

Under the influence of the ongoing climate change, it will be increasingly difficult to meet all needs with the available water supply of large rivers such as São Francisco. As long as we need more and more irrigation water, drinking water, and water for other purposes, we will likely have to cut down the simultaneous use of hydropower. The INNOVATE team has therefore proposed to diversify the energy supply. Since generation of wind power is on the rise in Brasil, the conditions to do so are favorable. Regions with existing dams are particularly suitable for switching to solar and wind energy, because there is already an existing power supply system.

We attempted to make regulated rivers of the São Francisco catchment a bit more natural in their outflow and to find new opportunities for utilization of wind energy. Ultimately, at least the semi-arid areas of the São Francisco basin could be developed into an energy landscape, which is defined not only by irrigation farming and hydropower but increasingly also by wind and solar power. The models that were produced within the INNOVATE project and then put up for discussion show that such scenario is realistic.

A close attention was also paid to an investigation of the eutrophication phenomena (e.g. phosphorus binding) in the bays of large reservoirs. One of our recommendations was to prevent a mass development of plants (such as Elodea) that stimulate the toxic algal bloom by their extensive removal. Another recommendation was to minimize daily water fluctuations. In our models, we have shown when and where to install irrigation water pumps. The pumps should not be installed, for example, after rain events when nutrients and pesticides are washed down into the bays.

We have also analyzed consequences of dam constructions, which have, as with the São Francisco River, displaced several tens of thousands of people. Since the soils were sandy and nutrient-poor, the question was also how to improve the new and old agricultural land in and outside of the irrigation areas. Our research team has shown that the biological pest control applied instead of pesticides does not lead to yield losses (e.g. in coconut plantations), when herbaceous vegetation is allowed along the irrigation ditches that can be colonized by natural enemies of pests, such as amphibians and reptiles.

For the studied dry forest areas (“Caatinga”), which are under an enormous grazing pressure, we came up with suggestions on how to support a regeneration of the sparse forest with regional species and how to protect the biodiversity. We have also proposed ideas for further establishment of the Caatinga conservation areas and we have introduced strategies for goat and sheep farming (husbandry, fodder production or reuse of manure) in order to achieve improvements for the local livestock owners.

In the field of nature conservation, we have helped local organizations in the dry-forest areas, e.g. with a compilation of faunal and floral databases. For local farmers, we have also developed a program promoting the Umbuzeiro tree. This tree species is heavily used and valued for its fruits and underground tubers that help the trees to overcome drought periods. Due to the heavy utilization of this and other Caatinga species, especially during very long drought periods, tree seedlings are often damaged, which greatly restricts regeneration. This program can be implemented by agricultural organizations.

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Prof. Dr. Johann Köppel works at the Berlin Institute of Technology, Technische Universität Berlin.

Publications

Gröner, F., Höhne, C., Kleiner, W., Kloas, W. (2017): Chronic diclofenac exposure affects gill integrity and pituitary gene expression and displays estrogenic activity in nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Chemosphere, 166: 473–481.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.09.116

Schulz, C., Koch, R., Cierjacks, A., Kleinschmit, B. (2017): Land change and loss of landscape diversity at the Caatinga phytogeographical domain - Analysis of pattern-process relationships with MODIS land cover products (2001-2012). Journal of Arid Environments, 136: 54–74.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2016.10.004

Cierjacks, A., Pommeranz, M., Schulz, K., Almeida-Cortez, J. (2016): Is crop yield related to weed species diversity and biomass in coconut and banana fields of northeastern Brazil? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 220: 175–183.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.01.006

Matta, E., Selge, F., Gunkel, G., Rossiter, K., Jourieh, A., Hinkelmann, R. (2016): Simulations of nutrient emissions from a net cage aquaculture in a Brazilian bay. Water Science and Technology, 73(10): 2430–2435.
URL: https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2016.092

Schulz, K., Voigt, K., Beusch, C., Almeida-Cortez, J.S., Kowarik, I., Walz, A., Cierjacks, A. (2016): Grazing deteriorates the soil carbon stocks of Caatinga forest ecosystems in Brazil. Forest Ecology and Management, 367: 62–70.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2016.02.011

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Science portrait

Sustainable reservoir use

Science portrait Photo: V. Rodorff

The embankment dam was built with the intention of improving the living conditions of the local people, but subsequently gave rise to many ecological problems. German and Brazilian scientists are now working together to reduce the negative effects of the dam through the research project INNOVATE.

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INNOVATE

Introduction of the regional project INNOVATE

Constellation analysis

Constellation analysis is a tool used to clarify perceptions of different stakeholders on land management problems.

Biological pest control

The technology aims at biological pest control through reducing the use of common agrochemicals.


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  • Batad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Luzon Photo: J. Settele
  • Grasshoppers can have both benefical and detrimental effects on rice ecosystems Photo: S. Hotes
  • Rice terraces in Vietnam Photo: J. Settele
  • Rice planting in Bangaan. Philippines Photo: J. Settele
  • Infestation  of rice by Brown planthopper (<i>Nilaparvata lugens</i>) Photo: S.Villareal |IRRI
  • Horned treehopper (<i>Centrochares sp.</i>)and Ants have a mutualistic relationship. Philippines Photo: S.Villareal, IRRI
  • Forests above the rice terraces guarantee more continuous water supply and high biodiversity Photo: J. Settele

About the project - LEGATO

In order to advance long-term sustainable development of intensive land use systems against risks arising from multiple aspects of global change, LEGATO quantified the dependence of ecosystem functions (ESF) and the services (ESS) they generate in agricultural systems in South East Asia. The focus was on local and regional land-use intensity (including the socio-cultural and economic background) and biodiversity, and the potential impacts of future climate and land-use change. Following the framework of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), the researchers defined supporting services as ESF and dealt with selected characteristic elements of the three service strands defined by the MEA: a) Provisioning: nutrient cycling & crop production (including consequences for the hydrosphere); b) Regulating: biocontrol & pollination; c) Cultural services: cultural identity & aesthetics.

LEGATO developed valuations of ESS through monetary and non-monetary methods. The most meaningful monetary costs to be calculated were (potential) damage costs (e.g. due to production losses, influences of reduced water quality), management/repair costs, and avoidance cost (precautionary measures) as these manifest themselves in real markets. The non-monetary costs were crucial for cultural services. LEGATO tested and improved already existing indicators for ESF/ESS and their values - building upon but going beyond existing indicator sets such as those of the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) and the SEBI (Streamlining European Biodiversity Indicators).

As a core output, LEGATO developed guidelines for optimizing ESF/ESS given the local socio-cultural conditions, and their stabilization under the future climate and land-use change, which particularly affect South and Southeast Asia. The project also analyzed the potential of ecological engineering to follow the guidelines, and tested their implementation and transferability across regions.

Funding period: March 2011 to December 2016
Funding: 7.5 million Euros
Leading research institution: Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ

Photo: Sebastian Wiedling/UFZ

Interview

with the project head Josef Settele

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

Landscape approaches offer a wealth of opportunities for sustainable land use by combining crop production, recreation, tourism and the protection of cultural heritage.
Communication has to move into new directions, where soap operas and Citizen Science are promising approaches.

What were the lessons learnt from the LEGATO project?

Creation of a common understanding of basic principles of each other’s perceptions and resulting approaches was a major challenge. Communication of scientific concepts and terms required a high level of investments and skills. The concept of co-design and co-production was relatively new and mostly unknown for both stakeholders and scientists and required a long phase of adjustment to open up the minds in such a direction.

Research has to consider inputs from stakeholders and scientists – and in different circumstances their relevance is very different:

  • Science: The so far undervalued or even ignored role of silicon as a potentially limiting nutrient especially in Vietnam. This aspect would have never been discovered if the research concept would have been exclusively based on stakeholders’ wishes and priorities.
  • Stakeholder Work: The close interactions of farmers and other stakeholders, outreach professionals (TV channels) and scientists, which yielded the amazing set of 20 soap operas. This aspect never would have materialized if the LEGATO concept would have been exclusively based on scientists’ wishes and priorities.

Investing in both of these elements would not have been possible without a flexible adjustment of priorities in the course of the project.

In which way can the results of LEGATO be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

Major outputs are the recommendations on how to sustainably use different approaches, many summarized/branded within the term “Ecological Engineering”, to make use of nature’s services rather than suppressing them. Awareness rising in relation to the abuse of insecticides was a core component, as well as options to combine crop production with aesthetics, cultural services, and eco-tourism. Pilot studies on citizen science have shown how the public can be engaged. Education entertainment (soap operas) has been developed as an important outlet of information.
Key findings and aspects that could be picked up by future projects include a) the landscape approach for the management of agricultural areas - in irrigated rice regions and beyond; b) further development of new communication channels (TV shows, Citizen Science, Ecological Engineering); and c) an even wider geographical coverage (in our case over the entire South-East Asian region).
LEGATO is a showcase example on sustainable land management as it was from the beginning designed to cover a high number of regions and highlighted a set of regional and/or local options for improvement.
Working with a reasonable number of regions (7 regions in 2 countries) was an essential precondition for investigating transferability of our results, which would be hard to imagine if research was done in one area or region only, without “replications”.


Prof. Dr. Josef Settele works at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ.

Publications

Castonguay, A.C., Burkhard, B., Müller, F., Horgan, F.G., Settele, J. (2016): Resilience and adaptability of rice terrace social-ecological systems: A case study of a local community’s perception in Banaue, Philippines. Ecology & Society, 21(2): 15.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-08348-210215

Marxen, A., Klotzbücher, T., Jahn, R., Kaiser, K., Nguyen, V.S., Schmidt, A., Schädler, M., Vetterlein, D. (2016): Interaction between silicon cycling and straw decomposition in a silicon deficient rice production system. Plant and Soil, 398(1): 153–163.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-015-2645-8

Schmidt, A., John, K., Arida, G., Auge, H., Brandl, R., Horgan, F.G., Hotes, S., Marquez, L., Radermacher, N., Settele, J., Wolters, V., Schädler, M. (2015): Effects of Residue Management on Decomposition in Irrigated Rice Fields Are Not Related to Changes in the Decomposer Community. PLoS ONE 10: e0134402.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134402

Settele, J., Spangenberg, J.H., Heong, K.L., Burkhard, B., Bustamante, J.V., Cabbigat, J., Chien, H.V., Escalada, M., Grescho, V., Hai, L.H., Harpke, A., Horgan, F.G., Hotes, S., Jahn, R., Kühn, I., Marquez, L., Schädler, M., Tekken, V., Vetterlein, D., Villareal, S., Westphal, C., Wiemers, M. (2015): Agricultural landscapes and ecosystem services in South-East Asia—the LEGATO-Project. Basic and Applied Ecology, 16(8): 661–664.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2015.10.003

Spangenberg, J.H., Douguet, J.-M., Settele, J., Heong, K.L. (2015): Escaping the Lock-In of Continuous Insecticide Spraying in Rice. Developing an integrated ecological and socio-political DPSIR analysis. Ecological Modelling, 295: 188–195.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.05.010

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Science portrait

New approaches in rice cultivation

Science portrait

Half of the world’s population lives on rice. However, rice is not cultivated ecologically and sustainably everywhere: it is normally grown with the application of mineral fertilizers and often sprayed to control weeds, pests and diseases. In Vietnam and the Philippines, Asian and German scientists are now searching for more sustainable ways to manage rice ecosystems.

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LEGATO

Introduction of the regional project LEGATO - Land-use intensity and ecological engineering rice based production systems

LEGATO rethinking rice

Video about LEGATO and rice ecosystem services


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  • Feathergrass, Siberia Photo: N.Hölzel
  • Silver-studded blue Geranium Argus (<i>Aricia eumedon</i>) Photo: S. Weking
  • Forest steppe of  Western Siberia Photo: N.Hölzel
  • Grain drying - often the limiting factor during harvest Photo: I. Kühling
  • Siberian birch grove in the forest steppe  Photo: N.Hölzel
  • Black-tailed Godwit (<i>Limosa limosa</i>), still widespread in wet meadows Photo: M. Koshkin
  • Milk collection in rural Siberia Photo: I. Kaempf
  • Stubble fields before sowing Photo: P. Kues

About the project - SASCHA

The Russian province of Tyumen in Western Siberia is important for food production, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. The massive peatlands and humus-rich steppe soils of the region are carbon sinks of global significance. The region has been the scene of recent land-use change, including massive land abandonment following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. More recently, these trends have been reversed, with recent recultivation and cropland intensification. Climate change could lead to an increasing drought risk and lead to a northward shifts in agriculture. New expansion of cropland into mires and recultivation might lead to a release of greenhouse gases on a globally significant scale, with an important, but poorly understood potential for feedback mechanisms. Further ecosystem goods and services, such as water quality or soil fertility, might also be affected. Social systems will also be impacted by the fundamental changes in land use and rural infrastructure.

There are few concepts and strategies in Western Siberia to steer and mitigate the fundamental land-use change and its implications for wildlife and society. SASCHA aimed to provide basic knowledge, practical management tools and adaptation strategies to cope with recent and future land-use and climate change. The SASCHA consortium has collected data on biodiversity and ecosystem services, has quantified and modeled ecological processes such as green-house gas fluxes, and has assessed the impact of different land-use intensities on ecosystem goods and services. Remote-sensing tools allowing land users to monitor land-use change were developed. Based on an evaluation of various scenarios, strategies for future sustainable land use were communicated to main stakeholders in farming and landscape planning. Farm trials realized in collaboration with local farmers aimed at the development of farming techniques that increase resilience to climate change and make intensification processes less detrimental to biodiversity and ecosystem services. A wide array of local, regional and international stakeholders was identified and approached for collaboration. The socio-economic component of the project ensured realistic assessments and efficient targeting of the right audiences.

Funding period: November 2011 to December 2016
Funding: 3.8 million Euros
Leading research institution: University of Münster

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Interview

with the project head Norbert Hölzel

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

Based on our research we could demonstrate that old grasslands and abandoned arable land are of major significance for biodiversity preservation and carbon sequestration. Despite low management intensity, cropland turned out to be of minor significance for biodiversity preservation. Furthermore, we found out that in the past cropland abandonment took place preferably in areas with low soil quality. Thus, raising yields on existing cropland should be prioritized over the re-cultivation of abandoned arable land. Such intensification must be done in a sustainable way using low tillage methods that are beneficial for the preservation of soil fertility and carbon stocks. In addition, low tillage practices proved to enhance soil water potential, which is critical for yields considering the effects of future climate change in this semi-humid region. Soil nutrient status and carbon sequestration can be further enhanced through regular crop rotations and the usage of fertilizer including the so far underutilized manure. For the preservation of biodiversity a continuation of grassland management by grazing and hay making for livestock keeping is mandatory, which may even have global impact through substituting imports from countries with environmentally harmful meat production, such as Brazil.

What were the lessons learnt from the SASCHA project?

The development of agriculture in Russia is currently driven by national and regional policies rather than globally increasing demands for arable land or the effects of climate change. Projects on sustainable land management can therefore only be successful, if they advocate decisions on very high federal levels, acknowledging the existing top-down decision-making.
The most important change to our original funding application was an increase in capacity building in both involved countries. We quickly realized that this component of the project needed to be increased, and frequently invited Russian students and partners to Germany, while German PhD students spent extended periods with Russian partners on site. This proved to be an effective way to bring across opinions and approaches of both partners. Besides language barriers, the major ‘stumble stones’ were the different cultures of research partners within the German consortium and between the two countries involved.

In future calls, bilateral collaboration and preparation of co-funding agreements between countries already during the application period should be encouraged. A preparation phase of perhaps one year prior to the start of the main project for the preparation of logistics, organization of permits, compilation of existing data and set up of infrastructure would increase project effectiveness and success chances.

In which way can the results of SASCHA be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

The exchange of German and Russian graduate and PhD students and senior researchers leads to cultural understanding and increased capacity on both sides, thereby allowing spread and multiplication of the project spirit and results after its end. The transferability of strategies for reconciliation of biodiversity conservation and agricultural development to other areas of the same biome (forest steppe/steppe) is high, as shown by us in the neighboring Kazakhstan.

The SASCHA project is a showcase example on sustainable land management, as it integrated the knowledge of Russian and German researchers and stakeholders from very different areas of sustainability research, created a theoretical basis for increasing sustainability on sound scientific grounds, and developed measures to apply the created knowledge in practice. However, a transferability analysis suggests that transferability to regions other than the Russian and Kazakh temperate grassland/forest biome is limited by biophysical characters (e.g. climate), political systems, cultural understanding and different economic abilities to support sustainability.


Prof. Dr. Norbert Hölzel works at the Institut of Landscape Ecology at University Münster.

Publications

Fleischer, E., Khashimov, I., Hölzel, N., Klemm, O. (2016): Carbon exchange fluxes over peatlands in Western Siberia: Possible feedback between land-use change and climate change. Science of the Total Environment, 545–546: 424–433.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.12.073

Griewald, Y. (2016): Institutional economics of grain marketing in Russia: Insights from the Tyumen region. Journal of Rural Studies, 47: 21–30.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.07.010

Mathar, W., Kämpf, I., Kleinebecker, T., Kuzmin, I., Tolstikov, A., Tupitsin, S., Hölzel, N. (2016): Floristic diversity of meadow steppes in the Western Siberian Plain: Effects of abiotic site conditions, management and landscape structure. Biodiversity and Conservation, 25(12): 2361–2379.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-015-1023-4

Kämpf, I., Mathar, W., Kuzmin, I., Hölzel, N., Kiehl, K. (2016): Post-Soviet recovery of grassland vegetation on abandoned fields in the forest steppe zone of Western Siberia. Biodiversity and Conservation, 25(12): 2563–2580.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-016-1078-x

Kämpf, I., Hölzel, N., Störrle, M., Broll, G., Kiehl, K. (2016): Potential of temperate agricultural soils for carbon sequestration: A meta-analysis of land-use effects. Science of the Total Environment, 566–567: 428–435.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.067

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Science portrait

New strategies for the forest steppe

Science portrait Photo: N. Hölzel

The wetlands, forests and steppes of Western Siberia are among the most important carbon sinks in the world. As the need for arable land in the region increases there is a risk that the carbon will be released. This could accelerate climate change. Scientists from Germany and Russia now want to provide facts in order to shape changes in land use sustainably.

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SASCHA

Introduction of the regional project SASCHA - Sustainable land management and adaptation strategies to climate change for West Siberia

Forschungsprojekt Sascha
(only german)

Sustainable Land Management in West-Siberia


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  • Undergrowth killed off by herbicides in a rubber plantation Photo: G. Langenberger
  • Rice paddy and harvested corn field Photo: J. Liu
  • Collection point for the tapped latex, which is transported to factories for processing Photo: G. Langenberger
  • Land cleared ready for new rubber plantations Photo: G. Langenberger
  • The Mekong River Photo: J. Liu
  • Typical landscape of the project region Photo: G. Langenberger
  • <i>Alpinia oxyphylla</i>, a medicinal plant growing as undergrowth in a rubber plantation Photo: G. Langenberger

About the project - SURUMER

Within the last decade, the world production of natural rubber has increased by around one-third (or three million tons). Currently, more than one third of the global natural rubber production of 12 million tons is consumed by China. The major rubber producing areas located in the tropics of southern China (Xishuangbanna Prefecture), Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia (> 90%) are experiencing a tremendous expansion in recent years.

The expansion of rubber plantations is predominantly realized by sacrificing natural forests belonging to the “Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot”, one of the world’s high diversity areas. This rapid process triggers shifts in a variety of direct and indirect effects on ecosystem functions and services as well as socio-economic implications on various spatial and temporal scales. The complex and interrelated factors thereof require qualitative and quantitative analyses of ecosystem functions and services for the development of new and sustainable land-use concepts.

The overall objective of the SURUMER joint project is to develop an integrative, applicable and stakeholder-validated concept for sustainable rubber cultivation. The outcomes of the project refer not only to the study region in Yunnan. Rather, they provide a blueprint for a wider application in rubber cultivation areas across the Mekong region. The concept is based on multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to identify trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem functions and services on the one hand and socio-economic goals and constraints on the other.

Funding period: December 2011 to June 2017
Funding: 4.6 million Euros
Leading research institution: University of Hohenheim

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Interview

with the project head Georg Cadisch

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

The area of rubber cultivation in the Mekong region increased dramatically, especially since the turn of the millennium. On the one hand, the expansion of rubber, coupled with high world-market prices, improved farmers´ livelihoods and the economic wealth in the region. On the other hand, the majority of rubber plantations is currently cultivated as a monoculture, leading to a large-scale replacement of diverse forest and crop land mosaics. This development goes along with the loss of plant diversity and an associated degradation of habitat quality for the indigenous fauna. Rubber plantations host around 30‒50% less species of vertebrates and invertebrates compared to natural forests, and the number of wild bee species is reduced by more than 15% compared to traditional agricultural land. This land-use change further affects other ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and soil fertility. The current practice of rubber cultivation implies an intense use of herbicides which promotes losses of fertile soils due to marginal soil cover and consequent erosion. Additionally, reduced infiltration rates and an associated increased surface run-off induce higher flooding risks downstream and threaten water quality. The latter is of great concern since surface water is a major source of drinking water not only for the local rural population but for the entire region. Furthermore, the erosion-triggered introduction of fine sediments into riverbeds lowers the habitat quality for water-dependent fauna, such as fish.

The past high market prices and the associated demand for rubber also led to an expansion of rubber plantations to unsuitable, marginal sites, such as to high altitudes. Our analyses show that ecological conditions at high altitudes hamper the profitability of rubber cultivation, and 30% of the plantations above 800 m a.s.l. don’t reach the break-even point even under good market conditions.

The results of our project show that alternative rubber cultivation concepts should focus particularly on improved water quality and better land-use planning to maintain the economic and ecological balance of the region.

What were the lessons learnt from the SURUMER project?

It is crucial to find common entry points with the stakeholders, figure out the problems they are facing and thereby raise their interest for the topic. These entry points differ, depending on the stakeholders’ point of view. For the local farmer, the quality of drinking water, derived directly from the surface waters and impacted by the different land management systems is of major concern. For stakeholders on a regional level, concepts for land-use planning that satisfy both environmental and economic needs are crucial.
Agricultural systems based on cash crops change rapidly depending on the world market and local framework conditions. This fact needs to be considered in any analytical assessment.
The scenarios, which we set up 3 years ago, expected an expansion of rubber plantations by 2% per annum. However, recent figures show that this assumption is not up-to-date anymore, due to fluctuating rubber prices and an associated shift towards other crops, such as banana.
Based on a transdisciplinary process, alternative concepts for rubber cultivation have to be conceptualized together with the stakeholders. Scientific analyses which show the results and trade-offs of land-use scenarios are then validated by the stakeholders in order to adapt the definition of entry points which are of importance to the stakeholders.
These interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary processes require a high degree of commitment by all stakeholders - including scientists. Different scientific disciplines need to define their objectives according to the overall project aim and actively interlink their approaches with other disciplines. This involves a high work load, but also creates new synergies. Especially young scientists, who otherwise focus mainly on their own discipline, are provided the chance to engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue. Unfortunately, the effort necessary for the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work often tends to be underestimated by the scientific community and by funding agencies.

In which way can the results of SURUMER be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

Essential for a successful implementation of alternative and more sustainable rubber management practices is the understanding and consideration of stakeholder interests. This comprises local constraints such as labor shortages as well as economic viability. Therefore, we implemented demonstration trials with indigenous and endangered tropical tree species which can be intercropped into existing rubber plantations. These enriched plantations are thereby providing a refuge for such endangered plant species. Addressing water quality, we developed a reduced-herbicide scheme which fulfills the need for weed control while still safeguarding free access to the trees for tapping. The resulting improved water infiltration and respective reduction of erosion contribute to the maintenance of downstream surface water quality. These measures are currently being reinforced with help of the local community by protecting stream banks and head waters by vegetated buffer strips and water protection zones. These concepts also found their way into the recent WOCAT-Book titled “Making sense of research for sustainable land management”, which integrates the practical findings of the SULAMA program.
Taking into account the regional 5-year planning periods of the government, we assessed benefits of additional measures (restricting rubber plantations to elevations below 900 m a.s.l. and below 23° slope) combined with the above mentioned improved weed management and the buffer strips. Computer simulations suggest that these combined measures could increase overall ecosystem services by 3.4%. Even in landscapes with less than 12% of rubber cover, the measures increased the indicator for the ecosystem services ‘water quality’ and ‘sustainable agriculture’ by over 20%.
In a series of six stakeholder workshops organized in collaboration with local administrations and other decision-makers on a prefecture level, in one training workshop and a number of focus-group discussions addressing farmers and village heads, we discussed the current situation, exchanged results and discussed pathways to future more sustainable rubber cultivation. The process (together with our scenario findings) has been well received by the regional stakeholders at our recent final stakeholder workshop and might be an interesting starting point for the design of the next 5-year planning strategy of the government.
Even though these measures have been locally developed and implemented, they are generally applicable to other regions in South East Asia as many of the measures represent easily applicable and economically interesting alternatives.


Prof. Dr. Georg Cadisch works as the director of the Agronomy in the Tropics and Subtropics (490e) at the University of Hohenheim.

Publications

Blagodatskiy, S., Xu, J., Cadisch, G. (2016): Carbon balance of rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) plantations: a review of uncertainties at plot, landscape and production level. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 221: 8–19.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.01.025

Langenberger, G., Cadisch, G., Martin, K., Min, S., Waibel, H. (2016): Rubber intercropping: a viable concept for the 21st century? Agroforestry Systems, pp. 1–20.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-016-9961-8

Yang, X., Blagodatskiy, S., Lippe, M., Liu, F., Hammond, J., Xu, J., Cadisch, G. (2016): Land-use change impact on time-averaged carbon balances: rubber expansion and reforestation in a biosphere reserve, South-West China. Forest Ecology and Management, 372: 149–163.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2016.04.009

Meng, L., Yang, X., Martin, K., Gan, J., Liu, Y., Gong, W. (2016): Movement patterns of selected insect groups between natural forest, open land and rubber plantation in a tropical landscape (southern Yunnan, SW China). Journal of Insect Conservation, 20(3): 363–371.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-016-9869-7

Liu, H., Blagodatsky, S., Giese, M., Liu, F., Xu, J., Cadisch, G. (2016): Impact of herbicide application on soil erosion and induced carbon loss in a rubber plantation of Southwest China. CATENA, 145: 180–192.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2016.06.007

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Science portrait

Ways towards more sustainable rubber cultivation

Science portrait

Natural rubber is an important primary product in the global economy. However, the growing of rubber tree monocultures also has negative effects on important rocesses in the ecological balance. German and Chinese scientists are now working together in a joint project to develop solutions which will allow farmers to grow rubber in an ecologically and economically sustainable way.

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SURUMER

Introduction of the regional project SURUMER


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  • The Okavango delta Photo: M. Finckh
  • Local women in Cusseque, Angola Photo: M. Finckh
  • Trade of canoes Photo: M. Finckh
  • Typical catch using traditional fishing equipment, Namibia Photo: M. Finckh
  • Local market close to the Chitembo, Angola Photo: M. Pröpper
  • Shifting cultivation (manioc)in Cusseque Photo: H. Göhmann
  • Floodplains at Rundu, Namibia Photo: H. Göhmann

About the project - The Future Okavango

The interdisciplinary research project "The Future Okavango - Scientific support for sustainable land and resource management in the Okavango basin" (TFO) has generated scientific knowledge for decision makers to support an integrated transboundary management for the Okavango region for sustainable and equitable utilization of its ecosystem services. The ecosystems of the region under investigation, a system of woodland savannas, floodplains and extended wetlands integrating parts of Angola, Namibia and Botswana, are of global importance for climate and biological diversity. Simultaneously, they are threatened by the impact of rapid climate change, population growth and anthropogenic over-utilization of natural resources.

Fundamental ecosystem processes and functions were investigated and a wide spectrum of novel knowledge based on cutting-edge scientific methods and close interaction with stakeholders in the basin was compiled. As one outcome of the project, a condensed and integrated description of the status quo of the Okavango Basin and the four core sites which were studied in greater detail is now available. Key findings obtained in the course of the project and recommendations derived thereof were compiled by the interdisciplinary research team related to five main topics: “climate and climate change”, “water use, availability and management”, “conservation and management of natural resources”, “agriculture and food security” and “society and governance”. In addition, projections for the future illustrating alternative pathways that current land-use dynamics, population trends and management plans might follow were developed. They are a central tool to help decision makers to better understand the consequences of their current decision making.

To disseminate the results, a synthesis of the project has been presented to stakeholders at different levels in all countries involved, radio interviews were released and newspaper articles were promoted. This enables decision makers to use the knowledge towards protecting ecosystems and resources while also improving the wellbeing of the populations of the whole Okavango Basin.

Funding period: September 2010 to March 2016
Funding: 7.5 million Euros
Leading research institution: University of Hamburg

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Interview

with the project head Norbert Jürgens

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

The most important result is the observation that the land and resource management of the Okavango catchment as an integrated large social-ecological system is not sustainable. The present high speed of transformation of still largely intact landscapes into cultivated landscapes is accompanied by drastically increased resource exploitation. This will result in massive overexploitation of key resources within the next few decades. The lack of essential resources carries high risks for the region. Therefore, adaptive measures need to be introduced at large scale and the discussion and identification of feasible, efficient and acceptable measures should start now.

The expansion and agro-industrial intensification of agriculture requires a non-sustainable overexploitation of the water resources. This is accompanied by rapid clearing and fire-based degradation of the Miombo woodlands and a decline of fauna and flora. We see three main processes of transformation and degradation:
First, poverty-driven smallholder subsistence agriculture rapidly converts natural woodlands into agricultural fields.
Second, intensification of the production of firewood, timber, charcoal, thatch, bushmeat and honey has significant impacts. The transformation towards trade and marketization (commodification) of woodland products causes transformation (of forests), degradation (e. g. timber resources), and depletion (e. g. of larger wildlife) of resources.
Third, investment-driven implementation of agro-industrial schemes leads to agro-industrialisation, which is rapidly increasing both in size and number, mostly in areas of high value for smallholder agriculture, tourism, and conservation.

What were the lessons learnt from The Future Okavango project?

We found out that knowledge exchange and education are prerequisites for a successful transition. Furthermore, we found significant potential for improving the governance of the system. Woodland conservation and sustainable forest management are important adaptations to the climate change, and woodlands should be regarded as a limited resource that offers high-income opportunities. In general, we believe that protective measures on the local scale should have a strong emphasis on outreach to engage communities, and we prefer advocacy over regulation. Responsible policy makers are faced with the challenge of identifying value-based decisions and frame conditions by which ecosystems may be safeguarded and which, at the same time, account for socially sustainable processes of valuation and environmental action. Education, training, awareness, creation, grants, and the improvement of governmental extension services are other aspects that require policy attention and funding to incentivize and facilitate innovations and reduce dependency on relatively unproductive subsistence agriculture. Equally important is a focus on establishing inter-scalar, international and inter-sectoral communication processes to avoid potential conflicts.

In which way can the results of The Future Okavango be transferred into other regions of the world or into practice?

The transformation processes that we have analyzed and described can be denoted as syndromes of human impact on river basins and are therefore certainly transferrable to other river basins globally. The same applies to the societal and political response options that we have outlined.


Prof. Dr. Norbert Jürgens works at the University of Hamburg, Biocentre Klein Flottbek and Botanical Garden, Biodiversity, Evolution and Ecology of Plants.

Publications

Revermann, R., Finckh, M., Stellmes, M., Strohbach, B., Frantz, D., Oldeland, J. (2016): Linking Land Surface Phenology and Vegetation-Plot Databases to Model Terrestrial Plant α-Diversity of the Okavango Basin. Remote Sensing, 8(5): 370.
URL: https://doi.org/doi:10.3390/rs8050370

Weinzierl, T., Wehberg, J., Böhner, J., Conrad, O. (2016): Spatial Assessment of Land Degradation Risk for the Okavango River Catchment, Southern Africa. Land Degradation & Development, 27(2): 281–294.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.2426

Pröpper, M., Gröngröft, A., Finckh, M., Stirn, S., De Cauwer, V., Lages, F., Masamba, W., Murray-Hudson, M., Schmidt, L., Strohbach, B., Jürgens, N. (2015): The Future Okavango - Findings, Scenarios and Recommendations for Action, Research Project Final Synthesis Report 2010–2015, 190 pages.
URL: http://www.future-okavango.org/downloads/TFO_Report_engl_compiled_small_version.pdf

Haiyambo, D.H., Chimwamurombe, P.M., Reinhold-Hurek, B. (2015): Isolation and screening of rhizosphere bacteria from grasses in East Kavango region of Namibia for plant growth promoting characteristics. Current Microbiology, 71(5): 566 –571.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00284-015-0886-7

Murray-Hudson, M., Wolski, P., Cassidy, L., Brown, M. T., Thito, K., Kashe, K., Mosimanyana, E. (2015): Remote Sensing-derived hydroperiod as a predictor of floodplain vegetation composition. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 23(4): 603–616.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-014-9340-z

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Science portrait

THE FUTURE OKAVANGO

Okavango Delta Photo: M. Finckh

The Okavango ranks among the longest rivers in southern Africa and its volumes of water are imperative for the existence of many people. Overexploitation and privatisation are however threatening this fragile ecosystem. German researchers are in the process of trying to prevent this from happening. They are implementing their expertise locally by providing models for alternative uses.

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The Future Okavango

Introduction of the regional project TFO - Scientific support for sustainable land and resource management in the Okavango basin

Sharing The Future Okavango research results

A film to share research results with local stakeholders in Angola, Botswana and Namibia.


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  • Flooded rice field Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Pineapple plantation after harvest in the district of Dai Loc, Quang Nam province Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Za Hung dam used for hydroelectric power generation, Quang Nam province Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Rice farmer with water buffalos after the rice harvest in the lowlands of the Quang Nam province Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Land used for agriculture in the Hiep Duc district, Vietnam Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Vu Gia River in the Dong Giang district, Quang Nam province Photo: D. Meinardi
  • Flooded early-stage rice paddy, directly sown in the Vu Gia and Thun Bon River delta, Quang Nam province Photo: D. Meinardi

About the project - LUCCi

Land and water resources in South East Asia are under pressure due to population growth, economic development and changing climatic conditions. Vietnam with its long coastline belongs to the countries most vulnerable to climate-change related hydro-meteorological extremes and sea level rise. In the central provinces of Quang Nam and Da Nang, frequent drought events, floods and salt water intrusion are strongly affecting socioeconomic development, particularly agricultural production, urban water supply, infrastructure and the tourism sector. The “Land Use and Climate Change Interactions – LUCCi” research project aimed at providing a scientific basis to develop strategies for sustainable land and water use for the Vu Gia Thu Bon (VGTB) River Basin, which covers the provinces of Quang Nam and Da Nang. Interdisciplinary research concepts were applied to develop a variety of scenarios addressing the expected regional socio‐economic development, regional planning, climate change predictions and potential hydro-climatic risks, GHG emission estimates as well as consequent changes in land cover and water resources availability. Stakeholders dealing with water management, agricultural land use, urban planning, hydropower, forestry and biodiversity from all planning levels (including the national and the provincial, district and even commune levels) were involved in all phases to discuss information and research demand, data availability and planning deficits in the region.

With the aim to incorporate the LUCCi project findings to the provincial and national planning processes, we elaborated stakeholder-friendly information products such as figures, video-clips, brochures and posters for the involved institutions. These are all available at the VGTB Information Center in Da Nang. We established this center to support the cross-sectoral communication and planning process by offering comprehensive information services including capacity building, a River Basin Information System for the VGTB, and consulting services to the stakeholders and researchers.

Funding period: July 2010 to March 2016
Funding: 4.0 million Euros
Leading research institution: TH Köln - University of Applied Sciences, Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT)

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Interview

with the project head Lars Ribbe

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

The relevance of the LUCCi project results is demonstrated in many different sectors. These include, in particular, the water sector, agriculture sector, and the ecosystem or land-use sector. The major challenges of the water sector in the VuGia-ThuBon River Basin include droughts, low flow situations related to salt water intrusion, floods and storms. Given the very intensive hydropower development of the region, all these challenges fundamentally affect the reservoir management applied in the basin.

With our project results we contributed to an improved understanding of the hydrological system and we developed solutions to identified problems. To give an example, we modeled the hydrological system including reservoir operation, low flows and salt water intrusion. Consequently, we were able to make concrete suggestions on where to build weirs or how to change the channel network in order to cope with the issue of salt water intruding from the sea. In terms of flood risk management we applied a flood risk model showing which areas are in danger of being flooded, both under current and future land-use development plans. In terms of reservoir development we also looked into the trade-offs between operating reservoirs for energy production, flood and drought protection, or water supply for agriculture.

Further, we developed a concept for coping with the most pressing issues of the agriculture sector in the region, such as water-use inefficiency and greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production systems. The dominating crop in the region is rice, which is a crop related to methane emissions. To cope with these gas emissions we suggested using the ‘alternate wetting and drying’ technology. We also demonstrated how water-use efficiency could be improved under this management method.

Regarding ecosystems, we studied upland forest systems and biodiversity and suggested establishment of protected areas or creation of corridors for wildlife and biodiversity in the upper part of the basin. Further, we looked at actual carbon stocks and carbon dynamics of land-use changes and of the forest systems. In the coastal area we explored options for ecosystem-based adaptation using coastal wetlands or mangrove systems as a protection against climate extremes, especially against storms.

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Prof. Dr. Lars Ribbe works at the TH Köln - University of Applied Sciences, ITT.

Publications

Laux, P., Nguyen, P.N.B., Cullmann, J., Van, T.P., Kunstmann, H. (2017): How many RCM ensemble members provide confidence in the impact of land-use land cover change? International Journal of Climatology, 37(4): 2080–2100.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.4836

Firoz, A. B. M., Nauditt, A., Fink, M., Ribbe, L.: Quantifying human impacts on hydrological drought using a combined modelling approach in a tropical river basin in Central Vietnam, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., in review, 2017.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-86

Nauditt, A., Ribbe, L. (Eds.) (2016): Land Use and Climate Change Interactions in Central Vietnam (LUCCi). Springer, Book series: Water Resources Development and Management, ISBN 978-981-10-2623-2.
URL: http://www.springer.com/de/book/9789811026232#aboutBook

Nehren, U., Hoang, H.D.T., M.A. Marfai. C. Raedig, Alfonso de Nehren, S., Sartohadi, J., Castro, C. (2016): Ecosystem services of coastal dune systems for hazard mitigation: Case studies from Vietnam, Indonesia, and Chile. In: Renaud, F.G., Sudmeier-Rieux, K., Estrella, M., and Nehren, U.: Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Adaptation in Practice. Springer, Series: Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research 42, ISBN 978-3-319-43633-3.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-43633-3

Raedig, C., Ho Dac Thai, H., Nguyen Duc, T., Nehren, U. (2015): Development of indicator sets for monitoring and better managing coastal ecosystems: a case study of Vietnamese mangrove and dune areas. Proceedings: Annual Meeting of the Society for Tropical Ecology 'Resilience of tropical ecosystems: future challenges and opportunities', Zürich.
URL: not available

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Science portrait

Pioneers in Central Vietnam

Science portrait

Vietnam is considered to be one of the Asian tiger economies due to the fact that its economy has been booming non-stop for years. However, this economic boom has brought about certain disadvantages for the landscape and for nature. For this reason German and Vietnamese researchers have decided to develop strategies for sustainable land and water uses in Central Vietnam. These are urgently required, because there is a strong resources pressure on the region and it might additionally suffer from the impacts of climate change.

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Video

LUCCi

Introduction of the regional project LUCCi - Land-use and climate change interactions in the Vu Gia Thu Bon River Basin, Vietnam

LUCCi summary

Project overview of Land Use and Climate Change Interactions in Central Vietnam

Salinity monitoring

Nils Führer at Ruhr University Bochum talks about salinity monitoring.

Flow discharge

Nguyen Thuy Linh, student at Cologne University of applied sciences, talks about flow discharge measurements.


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  • Lower reaches of the Tarim River in summer Photo: M. Disse
  • Euphrates poplars depend on regular flooding Photo: P. Keilholz
  • Soil salinization Photo: P. Keilholz
  • Village life in the Tarim region Photo: P. Keilholz
  • Cotton ̶  Xinjiang's main agricultural product Photo: C. Weik
  • Transition from the Taklamakan desert into the Tugai forests with cotton fields Photo: M. Disse
  • Main irrigation canal in the oasis Aksu Photo: P. Keilholz

About the project - SuMaRiO

The Tarim River Basin in the nort-west of China is a large and unique arid region of extreme vulnerability. The climate is continental with large temperature amplitude, annually and daily. It is, globally, the most remote area from the oceans; hence rainfall is extremely rare and low and does not exceed 50 mm per year. Thus, all kinds of economic activities, especially agriculture and urban life, as well as the natural ecosystems depend on the river water as a major water source. The Tarim River, which is the largest river of the Tarim Basin, is fed by snowmelt and glacier melt in the mountains. The water discharge into the Tarim River has been increasing over the last decade. However, global climate-change prognoses forecast a shrinking water supply in this century. Due to strong extension of irrigated agriculture in oases along rivers since the 1950s, river flows have strongly decreased leading to a degradation of floodplain vegetation, while agricultural soils have become unusable due to salinization. There is a clear trade-off between generating income from irrigation agriculture, mainly cotton production, and the cost of ecosystem functions (ESF) and ecosystem services (ESS) provided by the natural ecosystems.

We developed a large-scale hydrological model (MIKE HYDRO) for sustainable water management along the Tarim River. In this model, the study area was divided into four sub-regions: Alar-Xinqiman (A), Xinqiman-Yingbaza (B), Yingbaza-Qiala (C), and Qiala-Taitema Lake (D). Our results show that considerable savings in irrigation water can be achieved by a land-use change. More than 100 mm of water required per year for irrigation could be saved by reducing the agricultural area in sections A and B. In both sections, the water deficit for irrigation could be reduced by 25%. The reduction of the agricultural area in the upper reaches could have considerable advantages for all parts of the catchment area. The results of the MIKE HYDRO simulations can be used for decision making for sustainable water and land management in the Tarim Basin.

The ecosystem services are presented in a Decision Support System (DSS) using indicators. These indicators are used to assess the planned management measures. The impact on the ESS indicators can be calculated for each proposed measure. Based on the entered objectives, a degree of attainment/benefit value is obtained. By the weighted aggregation of the benefit values, a score is given to each measure so that the measures can be compared with each other. For this aggregation, the weights of the stakeholders, which were defined at stakeholder workshops, are used. Chinese scientists show a great interest in the DSS and consider it a very useful tool for analyzing the impact of land and water management measures on ecosystem services in the Tarim catchment area.

Funding period: March 2011 to February 2016
Funding: 7.5 million Euros
Leading research institution: Technical University of Munich (TUM)

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Interview

with the project head Markus Disse

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

We modeled discharges of the Tarim River tributaries Hotan, Yarkant and Aksu. An increase in discharge of the Aksu River in the near future (2030s) and a decrease in discharge in the far future (2050s) are to be expected.
We found a negative impact on plant growth during the early stages of plant development under drip irrigation under plastic mulch with drip lines for four plant rows, whereas irrigation with a drip line for two plant rows showed a better root-zone wetting.
Results from the hydrologic model showed that the source of irrigation water is the decisive aspect of the process of salinization and soil degradation. The groundwater recharge volume is directly linked to the intensity of the yearly floods of the Tarim River.

The reduction of farmland areas in the upper reaches or the Tarim River would provide a significant benefit to the middle and lower reaches in terms of water availability. Increasing the farmland area in the lower reaches would increase water deficit and should be avoided. By reducing the total available water in the soil to 40%, cotton yields decreased by 6% compared to the yields of a total available soil water of 70%.
Results of a groundwater model suggest a need to preserve the current practice of groundwater recharge through the natural flooding of the Tarim floodplain in order to revitalize the Tugai forests.
A decrease in groundwater levels can result in a distinct decrease in productivity of Euphrates Poplar (Populus euphratica) trees not only at sites with large distances to the groundwater, but also at sites that are relatively close to the groundwater.
Due to rising labor prices and other production costs, cotton is expected to be the least profitable crop in the years to come.
Locally adapted, typical indigenous species should be given a priority in urban greening.
For successful implementation of volumetric water pricing and subsidization, an improved cooperation of water authorities (water pricing policy) and agricultural authorities (subsidies) is required.
An integrated approach that combines mechanisms for controlling water use with technical consulting, enhancement of environmental awareness, and subsidized water-saving irrigation technologies, is preferable over mere focus on regulations.
The SuMaRiO decision support system (DSS) was designed to support stakeholders in assessing possible consequences of their actions in the Tarim Basin.

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Prof. Dr. Markus Disse works as the Chair of Hydrology and River Basin Management at the Technical University of Munich.

Publications

Disse, M. (2016): Sustainable land and water management of River Oases along the Tarim River, Proc. IAHS, 373: 25–29.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5194/piahs-373-25-2016

Thomas, F.M., Jeschke, M., Zhang, X., Lang, P. (2016): Stand structure and productivity of Populus euphratica along a gradient of groundwater distances at the Tarim River (NW China). Journal of Plant Ecology, rtw078.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/jpe/rtw078

Keilholz, P., Disse, M., Halik, Ü. (2015): Effects of Land Use and Climate Change on Groundwater and Ecosystems at the Middle Reaches of the Tarim River Using the MIKE SHE Integrated Hydrological Model. Water, 7: 3040–3056.
URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/w7063040

Rumbaur, C., Thevs, N., Disse, M., Ahlheim, M., Brieden, A.. Cyffka, B.. Duethmann, D., Feike, T., Frör, O., Gärtner, P., Halik, Ü., Hill, J., Hinnenthal, M., Keilholz, P., Kleinschmit, B., Krysanova, V., Kuba, M., Mader, S., Menz, C., Othmanli, H., Pelz, S., Schroeder, M., Siew, T.F., Stender, V., Stahr, K., Thomas, F.M., Welp, M., Wortmann, M., Zhao, X., Chen, X., Jiang, T., Luo, J., Yimit, H., Yu, R., Zhang, X., Zhao, C. (2015): Sustainable management of river oases along the Tarim River (SuMaRiO) in Northwest China under conditions of climate change. Earth System Dynamics, 6(1): 83–107.
URL: https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-6-83-2015

Yang, Y., Disse, M., Yu, R., Yu, G., Sun, L., Huttner, P., Rumbaur, C. (2015): Large-Scale Hydrological Modeling and Decision-Making for Agricultural Water Consumption and Allocation in the Main Stem Tarim River, China. Water 2015, 7(6): 2821–2839.
URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/w7062821

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Science portrait

A management plan for the Tarim

Science portrait

The Tarim Basin is China’s most important cotton growing region. The cotton farms depend on the water carried there by the River Tarim. Artificial irrigation is causing ecological problems in the region however. A German-Chinese research team is now working to develop a sustainable use concept for the oasis landscape.

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Video

SuMaRiO

Introduction of the regional project SuMaRiO - Sustainable Management of River Oases along the Tarim River/China

Policy Recommendations

Policy Recommendations SuMaRiO

Sustainable management of river oases along the Tarim River

Urumqi Charta - Stakeholder recommendations to combat desertification

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  • Agricultural landscape of West Siberia Photo: A. Kozhanov
  • Wind erosion event in the German National Rayon, Altai region Photo: T. Meinel
  • The Kulunda Steppe in the Altai Region Photo: G. Schmidt / P. Illiger
  • Machinery is suitable for high-continental dry farming regions. Kazakh Steppe, Kostanai Region Photo: Grunwald/Amazonenwerke
  • Aerial view of the agricultural land and wind protection strips in the Virgin Lands region west of Barnaul Photo: M. Frühauf
  • Direct sowing trials on plots in the forest steppe of the Kulunda region Photo: T. Meinel
  • Gully/ravine erosion along the Aley River (southern Kulunda Steppe) Photo: M. Frühauf

About the project - KULUNDA

The interdisciplinary project KULUNDA blended knowledge of the German universities, non-university research institutions, and medium size enterprises. The main goals of the KULUNDA project were 1) to mitigate degradation and desertification processes by stabilizing and enhancing carbon sequestration in soils, 2) to increase crop yields through development and implementation of sustainable land management approaches and measures for rehabilitation of grassland ecosystems, and 3) to contribute to the rural and regional development.

The main achievements of the project are newly developed methods and technologies (adapted Soviet and modern Canadian systems) for further economically and ecologically sustainable, climate-optimized land use. The development of these new technologies was based mainly on field trials in three agricultural enterprises (with different soil and climate conditions) and an intensive collaboration with Russian farmers and other stakeholder.

The main conclusions of the project:
1) The adapted cultivation systems are more profitable due to higher gross margins.
2) Extensive farming achieves higher water-use efficiency (especially under no-till), stronger assimilation and highest yields. Minimized soil treatment leads to higher aggregate stability, which then leads to a lower risk of wind erosion, increased soil organic carbon storage and soil fertility as well as usable soil water content (usable field capacity).

The project results contribute not only to the soil and climate protection or a climate-adapted land use but also to a successful, i.e. sustainable, regional development as the regional and federal policy programs call for it.

Adapting to the new technologies requires training, however, young and potentially qualified staff do not return to the rural areas. In addition, due to unfinished land-rights reforms and uncertain credits and harvest insurance, farms are restricted in investing in new machinery. Nevertheless, early adopters are already using these new methods and technologies.

Funding period: October 2011 to September 2016
Funding: 3.2 million Euros
Leading research institution: Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg

article image

Interview

with the project head Manfred Frühauf

Which were the most important scientific results in the field of sustainable land management?

We were able to prove that the type and intensity of agricultural land use in the Altai region over the past 60 years has caused a serious damage to the soil, resulting in further adverse ecosystem and agronomic consequences. These have, above all, effects on yields, arable land and grasslands, and, ultimately, on the economy and regional development. The KULUNDA scientists have succeeded in explaining the site-dependent interactions between the intensity of agricultural cultivation, alterations of soil physical properties, and climatic conditions. In particular, soil-physical parameters and their interactions with soil moisture and yield dynamics have been described in detail based on field research, which focused on analyzing cultivation intensity and crop rotations under various climatic and soil conditions with regard to their ecological and economic consequences. One of the results was that through intensive land use the natural soil pattern and thereby soil aggregates (which play an important role in storing soil organic carbon) can be destroyed. This leads to a reduction of soil carbon by its oxidation and release in the form of a greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As the soil becomes a stronger source of this greenhouse gas and thus promotes anthropogenic climate change, it also contributes to increased wind erosion due to decline in soil humus, and reduced water storage capacity and soil fertility. Until now, little has been known about these relationships in conversion areas with dominant dry farming, even in the context of socioeconomic effects.

In terms of the project results it is also worth mentioning that we have collaborated with a broad network of Russian researchers and regional stakeholders. Based on this close collaboration, an ongoing discussion between the Russian colleagues and the stakeholders, their presentation during field days and educational events, we were able to quickly implement our results and achieve their transfer into practice in the model enterprises, and later, using these as “lighthouse projects”, in the entire Altai region. This has helped to provide a decision-making support for sustainable land use and regional development including the challenges of climate change to the farmers, as well as those stakeholders from policy and administration, who are responsible for strategic development concepts for the Altai region (until 2015).

In the KULUNDA project we have also analyzed the economic conditions and implications of both new and old cultivation methods - how much they cost and which methods can be economically favorable for the farmers. At the same time, we have also analyzed (tax) factors, manifestations and consequences of the heavy rural depopulation and we have focused on ways to curb these processes, especially in young people, and make life in rural areas more attractive for them.

The success of the KULUNDA project was also largely supported by a concurrently running project called DAAD that is being conducted by geographers from Halle and the Altai State University in Barnaul since several years ago. In this project, the local students are taught in German language scientific methods of environmental analysis. Through this project we were able to contribute to education of young researchers, who not only did their doctoral research studies but then used their skills and gained knowledge to work in the KULUNDA subprojects. This appears to be an important aspect in terms of providing good training to young people and supporting their sustainable, long-term work in and for the region.

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Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Manfred Frühauf works at the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Faculty of Natural Sciences III, Institute for Geosciences and Geography.

Publications

Bischoff, N., Mikutta, R., Shibistova,O., Puzanov, A., Reichert, E., Silanteva, M., Grebennikova, A., Schaarschmidt, F., Heinicke, S., Guggenberger, G. (2016): Land-use change under different climatic conditions: Consequences for organic matter and microbial communities in Siberian steppe soils. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 235: 253–264.
URL:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.10.022

Grunwald, L.C., Belyaev, V.I., Hamann, M., Illiger, P., Stephan, E., Bischoff, N., Rudev, N.V., Kozhanov, N.A. Schmidt, G., Manfred Frühauf, M., Meinel, T. (2016): Modern Cropping Systems and Technologies for Soil Conservation in Siberian Agriculture in Mueller et al. (eds) Novel Methods for Monitoring and Managing Land and Water Resources in Siberia, Springer Water, Springer Cham Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London ISBN 978-3-319-24407-5; (chapter 31) pp. 681–718.
URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24409-9 

Meyfroidt, P., Schierhorn, F., Prishchepov, A. V., Müller, D., Kuemmerle, T. (2016): Drivers, constraints and trade-offs associated with recultivating abandoned cropland in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Global Environmental Change, 37: 1–15.
URL:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.01.003

Kraemer, R., Prishchepov, A. V., Müller, D., Kuemmerle, T., Radeloff, V. C., Dara, A., Terekhov, A., Frühauf, M. (2015): Long-term agricultural land-cover change and potential for cropland expansion in the former Virgin Lands area of Kazakhstan. Environmental Research Letters, 10(5): 054012.
ULR:  https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/10/5/054012

Frühauf, M., Meinel, T. (2014): Ökosystemkonversion in den temperierten Grasländern Südwestsibieriens: Steuerfaktoren, Etappen und Geoökologische Konsequenzen. Geoöko, Bd. XXXV, 2014/1-2: 5–38.
URL: http://paradigmaps.geo.uni-halle.de/kulunda/sites/default/files/Fr%C3%BChauf_Geo%C3%B6ko_35_1%2B2.pdf

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Science portrait

New life for the steppe

Science portrait

The Kulunda Steppe in the Soviet Union was once highly valued for arable farming. With the collapse of the multinational state in the 1990s, large areas of the land fell into disuse. This situation has to be changed. A joint German-Russian research project seeks to ensure that land-use change develops as sustainably as possible.

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Video

KULUNDA

Introduction of the regional project KULUNDA - "How to prevent the next “Global Dust Bowl”?

Forschungsprojekt KULUNDA
(only german)

Sustainable land management in South-West-Siberia

KULUNDA project in West Siberia

Bericht zum Forschungsprojekt KULUNDA (only german)

A report on a German-Russian initiative against climate change

Minimum Tillage and No-Till in western Siberia

A video about agriculture characterized by large-scale intensive farming based on monocultures.