Work package 7


Evaluation of land use and management to prevent catastrophic shifts



  • To identify and evaluate natural resource management practices regarding their resilience towards change and their sustainability over time and scale.
  • To prepare guidelines on best practices for natural resource managers.


Description of work and role of partners

The main objective of WB7 is the formulation of effective and sustainable natural resource management options. To prevent sudden shifts and maintain (or enhance) the natural resource base and sustain productivity and biodiversity, the maintenance of vital ecosystem functions is required, that provides resilience to climate change, disasters and other threats and risks. First, existing natural resource management practices will be assessed and their appreciation by the stakeholders concerned will be investigated. A special focus will be put on the resilience of the management measures towards change, including ecosystem shocks and shifts, and on their key role within the ecosystem regarding thresholds and tipping points. Furthermore, focusing on the CASCADE dryland areas, guidelines will be developed addressing best technical practices, implementation and upscaling approaches. WP7 provides WB8 with data for financial evaluation (also from WB5), effective current management practices, calibration data (also from WBs 3-5), and with entry points for scenario development.


Task 1: Inventory and assessment of natural resource management

Before inventing new natural resource management measures it is economic and worthwhile to identify existing practices which are already preventing (or reversing) dramatic ecosystem shifts. Effective and sustainable natural resource management depends on suitable technologies and associated implementation approaches, and on flexibility and responsiveness to changing complex ecological and socio-economic environments. These existing management practices will be identified, documented and assessed using the standard WOCAT format. To maintain (or enhance) the natural resource base and sustain productivity and biodiversity, it requires maintaining the vital ecosystem functions, including resilience to climate change, disasters and other threats and risks. The assessment therefore includes impacts on ecosystem functions and services, following the Framework provided by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which distinguishes provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services of ecosystems. The assessment will include information on costs and benefits of natural resource management measures, and on their appreciation by stakeholders concerned (in collaboration with WB8). Attention will be paid to the valuation of the quantitative and qualitative effects, by means of both scientific and participatory valuation techniques. Combined with the results from WB5 it will be possible to draw conclusions on the ecosystems’ situation regarding its thresholds, i.e. if the ecosystem is close or far from a potential catastrophic shift. Rehabilitation measures will equally be included with prevention and mitigation measures, highlighting the potential to reverse catastrophic shifts.


Task 2: Developing an accurate but simple method for resilience assessment 

Land use and management measures are both influencing the ecosystem as elaborated in Task 1, but have also been influenced by changes of the ecosystem. Ecologically promising management measures may have (e.g. short term economic) disadvantages for the land users / natural resource manager, but are considered sustainable for the ecosystem, over the long term and / or over a larger area than the actual implementation area due to their services provided for the larger society (up to the global level). It might also be the case that the management measure prevents the ecosystem from falling below a threshold. How to find a balance and how to negotiate these issues with stakeholders from local to regional level? A special study about the issues of sustainability, resilience, timing and scale will be conducted to get more insights into potential mechanisms including the role of management measures regarding ecosystem tipping points, thresholds and shifts for guiding land managers at various scales.

A special focus will be put on the resilience of the management measures towards change. This includes questions about how resilient a specific management practice actually is and what kind of change would be required to make it more resilient or to adapt it to ecosystem changes. This might be a small adaptation like replacing a hedge row plant by a more drought resistant one. At the same time, a sustainable management practice is usually increasing the resilience of the ecosystem towards change, as this is inherent in the concept of sustainability and sustainable land management.

A sustainable management practice will therefore first change the state of the system, i.e. by hedge row plantations and then manage the circumstances (e.g. grazing intensity) in a manner compatible with the introduced state and resilient towards ecosystem changes. To assess the resilience, the drivers of change and the prediction of the drivers' level of impact over time and space need to be tackled. The historical drivers’ study of WB2 will be an important input. As a final result, an accurate but simple method for this resilience assessment, attached to the WOCAT tools used in Task 1, will be developed and tested within the CASCADE study sites. This ‘resilience tool’ can also be used beyond the projects lifetime and in other areas.


Task 3: Developing guidelines for best practices and upscaling approaches with natural resource managers

The variety of potentially promising measures within the CASCADE area and the information about their sustainability and resilience will then be the basis for guiding natural resource managers in dryland ecosystems. These guidelines consist of technical information including best practices as well as approaches for their implementation and up-scaling. Region- and ecosystem specific recommendations and principles will be elaborated considering different ecological and socio-economic environments and reviewed with a selection of natural resource managers (including land users) within the CASCADE study sites.