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 Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>