Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Africa: mitigating the effects of climate change

13.04.2012
Higher temperatures, less rainfall, more erratic weather conditions: farmers are already noticing changes in the global climate.
In Africa, in particular, the survival of large numbers of people is directly dependent on farming. How must land use there be organized in order to cushion the impact of climate change? This is the subject of a new major research project involving biologists and geoscientists from the University of Würzburg.

For West African countries, the savannahs are a kind of “granary”: here the climate and soils are so favorable that millet, maize, vegetables, and other important crop plants all thrive. But these are the very areas for which climate forecasts are predicting uncertain rainfall patterns and longer droughts, jeopardizing the supply of staple foods to the population and threatening their livelihoods as a result.

How can these basic essentials in West Africa be protected for the long term? How can agriculture be harmonized with ecology? To answer these questions, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), in partnership with ten West African states, has launched the WASCAL project (West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use). A sum of up to EUR 50 million is being contributed by the ministry to this project.

With this initiative, the BMBF is responding to a call from the G8 summit in 2007 at which the major industrial nations urged more support for efforts in Africa to combat the consequences of climate change. After all, with its low pollutant emissions, Africa is the world’s smallest contributor to climate change, but it is affected particularly severely by its impact.

Ten project partners in Africa

The countries participating in WASCAL are Benin, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo. The project is being coordinated by the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn. Teams from the University of Würzburg led by Professor Stefan Dech (Department of Remote Sensing in Geography) and Professor Karl Eduard Linsenmair (Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology at the Biocenter) are also involved. Both groups have spent many years researching land use and biodiversity in West Africa.

Satellite data show status quo

How are the West African savannahs used right now? Which areas of land are farmed, and which are populated with trees? What plants are cultivated? These are questions that interest Dr. Tobias Landmann, a geographer at the Department of Remote Sensing, which works closely with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen.

“For this project, we will also be using data acquired by the DLR with state-of-the-art satellites,” says Landmann. “The surface of the earth will be measured with a temporal and spatial resolution that is new for this region, enabling a distinction between parcels of cultivated land with edges measuring just five meters in length.” Based on these and other satellite data, the geographers will then draw up maps indicating the nature of the land use and the various crop cultivation systems. One of the objectives is to distinguish between irrigated fields and areas where natural rainfall is the only source of water.
Climate change and land use

The geoscientists will also combine current satellite data with a series of different measurements that are already available to them from their many years of research in West Africa. “Our aim with this is to show how the landscape and its use have changed since the mid-1980s, where, for example, natural pastures have been converted into farmland, or where tree populations have managed to recover,” explains Landmann. Are the changes connected to the effects of climate change? This is another aspect that the researchers wish to clarify.

Using ecosystems for farming

Among the issues that tropics expert Karl Eduard Linsenmair will be exploring as part of the WASCAL project is how the landscape must look if farmers are to be able to make optimum use of the “natural services” of the ecosystems. He explains what this actually means by giving an example: “The pollination of numerous agricultural crops requires insects, and termites play an important role in maintaining soil fertility.”

Insects will only provide such services if they are able to survive in areas populated by people. This is the case, for example, if there are semi-natural islands of vegetation in the landscape. How many insects regularly migrate from these islands, and how far into the farmland do they go? This is one issue that will be investigated by the Würzburg researchers. “Knowing this will give us a proper idea of how the landscape needs to be structured geographically in order to enable adequate pollination,” says the professor.

New lease on life for the Comoé Research Station

A central hub of the WASCAL project will be the ecological field research station set up by Linsenmair in Comoé National Park in the 1990s. The professor is particularly pleased about this because for ten years it was not possible to use the station in the north of the Republic of the Ivory Coast due to a civil war that raged in the country from 2002 onwards.

“Once the situation calmed down, the Ivorian Government approached us with a wish to extend the station and convert it into a center of excellence for biodiversity and climate change studies.” Funding for this operation is being provided by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, which already made a significant financial contribution to the erection of the station.

Training young African researchers

The research station in Comoé National Park will also offer African doctoral students an opportunity to engage in combined field and laboratory work. Training young African scientists is an important part of the WASCAL project, with several graduate schools for young researchers from the ten countries involved also included. The Department of Remote Sensing is also a partner of one of the WASCAL graduate schools.

Contact

Dr. Tobias Landmann, Institute of Geography and Geology at the University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-81869, tobias.landmann@uni-wuerzburg.de
http://www.fernerkundung.geographie.uni-wuerzburg.de/en/research/projects/current_projects/wascal/

Prof. Dr. Karl Eduard Linsenmair, Senior Professor of the Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology at the University of Würzburg’s Biocenter, T +49 (0)931 31-84351, ke_lins@biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de
http://www.zoo3.biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de/forschung/verbundprojekte/laufende_verbundprojekte/wascal/

Homepage of the WASCAL project: http://www.wascal.org

Robert Emmerich | idw
Further information:
http://www.wascal.org
http://www.fernerkundung.geographie.uni-wuerzburg.de/en/research/projects/current_projects/wascal/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future
27.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Penn researchers quantify the changes that lightning inspires in rock
27.04.2017 | University of Pennsylvania

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>