EU - A new research collaboration plans to quantify the sensitivity of ecosystems to environmental pressures in representative agriculturally dominated landscapes in Europe.
The group is known as STACCATO ("SusTainable AgriCultural ChAnge Through ecological engineering and Optimal use of natural resources"), and aims to advance sustainability in long-term development of agro-ecosystems.
The research consortium, combining the expertise of scientists from various fields of study from different European countries, will focus on investigating land use intensity at local as well as regional scales.
It will also look at the prevalent socio-economic backgrounds of farmers and stakeholders, and the potential impacts of future climate and land use change on biodiversity, and the affiliated ecosystem functions and services.
During the kick-off meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria (20-22 April 2016) the scientists agreed on methodologies to be used for data acquisition in five pre-selected case study areas in Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. Landscapes will comprise annual crops, like winter wheat or oilseed rape, and semi-natural grasslands.
"In particular, we intend to investigate the interactions between annual crops and the surrounding landscapes including sprawling urban areas, and the potentials of ecological engineering as a tool for eco-functional intensification," explained the project coordinator Prof Dr Josef Settele, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ.
"The overall objective is the elaboration and testing of generally applicable principles within the frame of ecological engineering, and to contribute to preventing the loss of valuable soil and land for agricultural productivity," he adds.
Ecological Engineering is an emerging discipline, concerned with design, monitoring and construction of agro-ecosystems in order to maximise ecosystem services through exploiting natural regulation mechanisms instead of suppressing them.
STACCATO aims to develop guidelines for optimising ecosystem functions and services provision and their stabilisation under future climate and land use change. Therefore, STACCATO will analyse the potential of ecological engineering as a tool for eco-functional intensification.
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