Sustainability Research Institute

Catastrophic shifts in drylands: how can we prevent ecosystem degradation? (CASCADE)

Sponsor: EU FP7 Integrated project (under negotiation)

Amount: €5.89 million of which ca. €400k in Leeds

Duration: Expected 1 January 2012 - 31 December 2016

Involved staff: Andy Dougill, Luuk Fleskens (PI), Lindsay Stringer

The aim of CASCADE is to obtain a better understanding of sudden ecosystem shifts that may lead to major losses in biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to define measures that can be used to prevent such shifts. The focus of CASCADE is explicitly on drylands as being one of the most fragile and threatened ecosystems in Europe. CASCADE will investigate the historical evolution of dryland ecosystems in six Mediterranean study sites, and improve understanding of the biogeochemical mechanisms underlying sudden and catastrophic shifts through a combination of experimentation and modelling. Experiments and field surveys will identify changes in ecosystem structure and functions that indicate approaching or crossing of tipping points and assess potentials for restoration. Models will be developed to describe regime shifts in the studied drylands in terms of changes in vegetation composition, abundance and spatial patterning. Based on both experimentation and modelling, CASCADE will develop management schemes for sustainable resource use and conservation of ecosystem services. By combining physical with socio-economic modelling, measures will be defined that work from an ecological as well as a socio-economic perspective. The results of CASCADE will be made accessible to natural resource and biodiversity managers, policy makers, and other audiences, using a variety of dissemination methods such as reports, booklets, newsletters, meetings, video, TV, and will be made accessible to the public through a web-based harmonized CASCADE information system (CASCADIS).

Partners: Alterra (Netherlands, co-ordinator); Technical University of Crete (Greece); University of Basilicata (Italy); CNRS (France); University of Alicante (Spain); University of Aveiro (Portugal); University of Bern (Switzerland); Utrecht University (Netherlands), Joint Research Centre (Italy); Cyprus University of Technology (Cyprus); Wageningen University (Netherlands); CEAM (Spain).