SR/00/366 U-TURN 2.0: Understanding Turning Points in Dryland Ecosystem Functioning

01 July 2018 → 31 July 2021
Federal funding: various
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Climate change
    • Terrestrial ecology
    • Environmental management
    • Environmental monitoring
Project description

Context (including possible societal impact, impact on regional, national or international policies and/or agreements)

Understanding ecosystem sensitivity to climate and anthropogenic change is of utmost importance in the context of climate change and increased human footprint on ecosystems. Especially in drylands that support and affect the wellbeing of more than one - third of the global population, the alteration of dryland ecosystem functioning (EF) may have tremendous effects on livelihood and food security. Much of the work related to change in vegetation dynamics in drylands has been triggered by severe and persistent droughts that have had a devastating impact on the environment. Many dryland areas around the world are affected by desertification and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) states that 10 – 20% of drylands are already degraded although some influential reports claim much higher fractions. Moreover, abrupt changes in dryland EF were reported as a result of climate extremes or non - sustainable resource use. Yet, despite decades of intensive research, insights related to dryland ecosystem functioning remain limited. UTURN is aiming at bridging this gap in an integrated and holistic way in order to advance the state of knowledge in the research field of ecosystem stability, thresholds and tipping points. While these issues are of importance in many regions of the world, UTURN will focus explicitly on dryland systems as they correspond to one of the most vulnerable ecosystems worldwide and its degradation is a major concern for sustainable development of livelihoods and increased food security. As such, understanding and quantifying ecosystem turning points is critical to support policy, ecosystem management and climate change research. By providing new methods and insights on ecosystem resilience and stability, including a better understanding of drivers of abrupt changes in ecosystem functioning, UTURN could be beneficial for the following international agreements:

  • Several United Nation Sustainable development Goals, such as SBD 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG15 (Life on land)
  • United Nation Convention for Combatting Desertification UNCCD, specifically the actions on Land degradation neutrality and Land for Life
  • United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity UNCBD, specifically the Strategic plan For Biodiversity (Strategic Goal A) ‘Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society’.