Land is essential to support life, ecosystems and food production. Due to population growth and environmental problems, land is becoming scarce. Especially in drylands, the deterioration in the quality of land is a problem. Dryland systems cover about 40% of the earth surface. Desertification in these areas directly affects about 250 million people. Various factors can cause desertification, such as climatic variations and human activities. My research focuses on rangeland management and the impact on dryland ecosystems. How could we anticipate desertification?
Due to grazing, different vegetation and soil properties change. Is it possible to ‘read’ the landscape to observe signals before desertification occurs? Theories have been developed that suggest several indicators. However, observations in reality are still needed to test most of these indicators. Local land users have a lot of knowledge about their environment. Have they observed any signals that proceeded degradation of their land? Local land users have often seen and used the landscape for a long time. Therefore, they have valuable knowledge. On the other hand, scientific theories and observations could improve the management of rangelands. Can local stakeholders and science learn from each other to improve understanding of these landscapes?
In November 2013, I started my 4-year PhD project. In my study, I aim to detect early warning signals to predict and anticipate desertification. How could we ‘read’ the landscape to act before it is too late? Understanding processes and early warning signals in drylands is essential for sustainable land management to combat desertification. To reach this aim, I will combine several methods: modelling, field experiments, and local knowledge. In my coming blog posts, I will tell you more about my first field visits to Spain and Cyprus and the theories linked to my research project. More information can be found on my personal webpage.