Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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    CASCADE Catastrophic shifts in drylands: how can we prevent ecosystem degradation? Final Publishable Summary : EU - FP7 project Grant Agreement Number 283068
    Elsen, H.G.M. van den; Hessel, R. ; Stringer, L.C. ; Daliakopoulos, I.N. ; Tsanis, I. ; Garcia Major, A. ; Ruiter, P.C. de; Bautista, S. ; Valdecantos, A. ; Vallejo, R.L. ; Kefi, S. ; Schneider, F. ; Baudena, M. ; Rietkerk, M. ; Fleskens, L. ; Schwilch, G. ; Juckers, Mara ; Geeson, Nicky ; Brandt, J. ; Sietz, D. ; Ita, C. de - \ 2017
    Wageningen : Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) - 35 p.
    Challenging conservation agriculture on marginal slopes in Sehoul, Morocco
    Schwilch, G. ; Laouina, A. ; Chaker, M. ; Machouri, N. ; Sfa, M. ; Stroosnijder, L. - \ 2015
    Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 30 (2015)3. - ISSN 1742-1705 - p. 233 - 251.
    land degradation - rainwater use - management - soil - efficiency - adoption - africa
    In Sehoul, Morocco, the use of marginal land for agriculture became a necessity for the local population due to increased poverty and the occupation of the best land by new owners. Desertification poses an additional threat to agricultural production on marginal slopes, which are often stony and degraded. In a participatory process embedded in the EU DESIRE research project, potential sustainable land management measures were selected to address land degradation and desertification. Promising experiences with no-tillage practices elsewhere in Morocco had motivated the Moroccan government to promote conservation agriculture throughout the country. This combination of crop rotation, minimal soil disturbance and soil cover maintenance, however, had not yet been tested on sloping degraded land. Field trials of grazing enclosure combined with no or minimum tillage were conducted on the plots of two farmers, and trial results were analyzed based on stakeholders’ criteria. Results suggest that increased soil cover with barley residues improved rainwater use efficiency and yields only slightly, although soil water was generally enhanced. Soil moisture measurements revealed that no-tillage was favorable mainly at soil depths of 5cm and in connection with low-rainfall events (<20mm); under these circumstances, moisture content was generally higher under no-tillage than under conventional tillage. Moreover, stakeholder discussion confirmed that farmers in Sehoul remain primarily interested in animal husbandry and are reluctant to change the current grazing system. Implementation of conservation agriculture is thus challenged both by the degraded, sloping and stony nature of the land, and by the socio-economic circumstances in Sehoul.
    Combining analytiacal frameworks to assess livelihood vulnerability to climate change and analyse adaptiation option
    Reed, M.S. ; Podesta, G. ; Fazey, I. ; Geeson, N. ; Hessel, R. ; Hubacek, K. ; Letson, D. ; Nainggolan, D. ; Prell, C. ; Rickenbach, M.G. ; Ritsema, C.J. ; Schwilch, G. ; Springer, L.C. ; Thomas, A.D. - \ 2013
    Ecological Economics 94 (2013). - ISSN 0921-8009 - p. 66 - 77.
    natural-resource management - adaptive capacity - local-communities - rational choice - south-africa - sustainability - agriculture - variability - indicators - challenges
    Experts working on behalf of international development organisations need better tools to assist land managers in developing countries maintain their livelihoods, as climate change puts pressure on the ecosystem services that they depend upon. However, current understanding of livelihood vulnerability to climate change is based on a fractured and disparate set of theories and methods. This review therefore combines theoretical insights from sustainable livelihoods analysis with other analytical frameworks (including the ecosystem services framework, diffusion theory, social learning, adaptive management and transitions management) to assess the vulnerability of rural livelihoods to climate change. This integrated analytical framework helps diagnose vulnerability to climate change, whilst identifying and comparing adaptation options that could reduce vulnerability, following four broad steps: i) determine likely level of exposure to climate change, and how climate change might interact with existing stresses and other future drivers of change; ii) determine the sensitivity of stocks of capital assets and flows of ecosystem services to climate change; iii) identify factors influencing decisions to develop and/or adopt different adaptation strategies, based on innovation or the use/substitution of existing assets; and iv) identify and evaluate potential trade-offs between adaptation options. The paper concludes by identifying interdisciplinary research needs for assessing the vulnerability of livelihoods to climate change.
    A structured multi-stakeholder learning process for Sustainable Land Management
    Schwilch, G. ; Bachmann, F. ; Valente, S. ; Coelho, C. ; Moreira, J. ; Laouina, A. ; Chaker, M. ; Aderghal, M. ; Santos, P. ; Reed, M.S. - \ 2012
    Journal of Environmental Management 107 (2012). - ISSN 0301-4797 - p. 52 - 63.
    public-participation - decision-support - governance - comanagement - environment - bolivia - india - slm
    There are many, often competing, options for Sustainable Land Management (SLM). Each must be assessed and sometimes negotiated prior to implementation. Participatory, multi-stakeholder approaches to identification and selection of SLM options are increasingly popular, often motivated by social learning and empowerment goals. Yet there are few practical tools for facilitating processes in which land managers may share, select, and decide on the most appropriate SLM options. The research presented here aims to close the gap between the theory and the practice of stakeholder participation/learning in SLM decision-making processes. The paper describes a three-part participatory methodology for selecting SLM options that was tested in 14 desertification-prone study sites within the EU-DESIRE project. Cross-site analysis and in-depth evaluation of the Moroccan and Portuguese sites were used to evaluate how well the proposed process facilitated stakeholder learning and selection of appropriate SLM options for local implementation. The structured nature of the process starting with SLM goal setting was found to facilitate mutual understanding and collaboration between stakeholders. The deliberation process led to a high degree of consensus over the outcome and, though not an initial aim, it fostered social learning in many cases. This solution-oriented methodology is applicable in a wide range of contexts and may be implemented with limited time and resources. .
    A process for effective desertification mitigation
    Schwilch, G. - \ 2012
    Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Leo Stroosnijder; H. Hurni, co-promotor(en): Jan de Graaff. - S.l. : s.n. - ISBN 9789461732880 - 178
    woestijnvorming - grondbeheer - duurzaamheid (sustainability) - besluitvorming - participatie - stakeholders - bodembescherming - milieueffect - mitigatie - desertification - land management - sustainability - decision making - participation - stakeholders - soil conservation - environmental impact - mitigation

    in these ecosystems can easily result in widespread and severe land degradation and thus desertification.
    Combined with global issues such as climate change, economic disparities, migration, and competing claims
    on land, this often leads to a vicious cycle of aridity, land degradation, and productivity loss. In addition to
    the harsh environmental conditions limiting land productivity, the socio-economic situation in drylands can
    pose challenges as well, given that these regions are often characterised by remoteness, marginality, lowproductivity
    farming, weak institutions, and even conflict. Managing land sustainably under such conditions
    is a challenge which concerns land users and other stakeholders, policymakers, and researchers alike.
    Desertification research has traditionally focused on degradation assessments, whereas prevention and
    mitigation strategies have not sufficiently been emphasised, although the concept of sustainable land
    management (SLM) is increasingly being acknowledged (Chapter 1).
    The present research was embedded in the EU FP6 research project DESIRE (Desertification
    Mitigation and Remediation of Land – a Global Approach for Local Solutions; 2007–2012). DESIRE aimed to
    establish promising alternative land use and management strategies in 17 areas affected by land
    degradation and desertification around the world. Project work was based on close collaboration of
    scientists with local stakeholder groups. The study sites served as a global laboratory for developing and
    applying new methods of science – stakeholder collaboration and trialling traditional and innovative
    approaches to combating desertification.
    Chapter 2 offers a compilation and review of a number of methodological approaches to monitoring
    and assessing SLM which to date have been little reported in the literature. Lessons are drawn from these
    experiences, and common elements and future pathways are identified as a basis for a global approach.
    The local-level methods of the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT)
    framework serve to catalogue SLM technologies and approaches as case studies. This tool was included in
    the local-level Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) as well as in the DESIRE project.
    Complementary site-based approaches can enhance an ecological process-based understanding of SLM
    variation. At national and sub-national levels, a joint WOCAT/LADA/DESIRE spatial assessment based on
    land use systems can be used to identify the status and trends of degradation and SLM, including causes,
    drivers, and impacts on ecosystem services. Expert consultation is combined with scientific evidence and,
    where necessary, enhanced with secondary data and indicator databases. Key lessons learnt include the
    need for a multi-scale approach, for using common indicators, and for drawing on a variety of information
    sources, including scientific data and local knowledge, by means of participatory methods. Methodological
    consistency allows for cross-scale analyses, and findings can be analysed and documented for use by
    decision-makers at various levels. Effective monitoring and assessment of SLM (e.g. for the United Nations
    Convention to Combat Desertification, UNCCD) requires a comprehensive methodological framework
    agreed upon and adopted by the major players.
    Although a variety of conservation measures are already applied at the local level, they are not
    adequately recognised, evaluated, and shared by land users, technicians, researchers, and policymakers.
    Likewise, collaboration between researchers and implementers is often insufficient. Chapter 3 presents a
    new methodological framework for a participatory process of appraising and selecting desertification
    mitigation strategies, and outlines first experiences from its application in the DESIRE project. The
    methodology – a key product developed within this PhD study – combines a collective learning and
    decision-making approach with the use of evaluated global best practices. It moves through a concise
    process in three parts, starting out with the identification of land degradation and locally applied solutions
    in a stakeholder workshop, followed by an assessment of local solutions using a standardised evaluation
    tool, and ending with the joint selection of promising strategies for implementation with the help of a
    decision support tool. A preliminary analysis of the application of the first part of the methodology showed
    that the initial stakeholder workshop resulted in a good basis for stakeholder cooperation and yielded
    promising land conservation practices for further assessment. Study site research teams appreciated the
    results, which they considered particularly valuable because urgent issues and promising options had
    emerged from joint reflection. The methodology was found to be suitable for initiating mutual learning
    among different stakeholder groups, as well as for integrating local and scientific knowledge.
    The thus identified SLM practices were then documented and evaluated by local researchers in
    collaboration with land users and using the internationally recognised and standardised WOCAT
    questionnaires. These in-depth assessments of 30 technologies and 8 approaches are analysed and
    compared across the DESIRE study sites in Chapter 4, highlighting key issues of SLM in drylands. Careful
    attention is paid to features which specifically characterise SLM in drylands and make SLM practices
    especially useful regarding the identified threats. Among the achievements attributed to the documented
    technologies, those mentioned most were diversified and enhanced production, as well as better
    management of water and soil degradation, whether by means of water harvesting, by improving soil
    moisture, or by reducing runoff. Demonstrating a favourable local-scale cost–benefit relationship was
    found to be crucial to improving people’s livelihoods and preventing further outmigration. However, it was
    also found that more research is needed to support the case study authors’ assessments of SLM impacts as
    well as to provide a solid rationale for investments in SLM.
    There are many and often competing options for SLM, and each must be assessed – and sometimes
    negotiated – prior to implementation. This makes SLM a classic multi-stakeholder issue which concerns
    individual and community land users, agricultural advisors, natural resource managers, government
    authorities, civil society, and researchers alike. Selecting appropriate SLM technologies for implementation
    thus requires an approach that is capable of integrating the diverse knowledge, perceptions, and
    judgements of the different stakeholders involved. Time and resource constraints often impede the
    development of contextualised, targeted, and sophisticated decision support systems. The DESIRE research
    project provided an excellent opportunity to develop and test a generic decision support methodology,
    using it to assist the study site teams in selecting, together with stakeholders in a stakeholder workshop,
    the most promising SLM option(s) for subsequent test implementation in the field (Chapter 5). Special
    attention was paid to the screening of local innovations, the selection and adaptation of potential SLM
    technologies, and the decision-making process determining which options are to be implemented. Chapter
    5 reviews the application of the DESIRE decision support methodology in a variety of biophysical and socioeconomic
    contexts, finding it to be well-structured, comprehensive, and relatively easy to apply. The builtin
    global database of SLM options provided knowledge from various environments, while the use of simple
    software allowed for easy calculation and visualisation of results. The scoring and negotiation of each
    option’s sustainability forced stakeholders to consider and acknowledge each other’s positions and
    opinions, ensuring that the final choice was well-accepted. The methodology included seeking
    commitments from stakeholders to implement the selected option(s). Challenges included the complexity
    of the issues at hand and the need for skilled moderators. Nonetheless, positive outcomes and user
    feedback confirmed that the DESIRE decision support methodology is an easy-to-use stepwise methodology
    for facilitating decision-focused participatory processes.
    Participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches are increasingly motivated by social learning and
    empowerment goals. Yet there remains a lack of practical tools for facilitating such processes. The research
    presented here aimed to close the gap between the theory and the practice of stakeholder participation
    and learning in decision-making processes concerned with SLM. Chapter 6 analyses and describes how the
    3-part participatory methodology for selecting SLM options contributed to multi-stakeholder learning.
    Cross-site analysis and in-depth evaluation of the Moroccan and Portuguese sites were used to evaluate
    how well the proposed process facilitated stakeholder learning and the selection of appropriate SLM
    options for local implementation. The structured nature of the process – starting with the joint setting of
    SLM goals – was found to facilitate mutual understanding and collaboration between stakeholders. The
    deliberation process led to a high degree of consensus over the outcome and, although this had not been
    an initial aim, in many cases also fostered social learning. This solution-oriented methodology is applicable
    in a wide range of contexts and can be implemented with limited time and resources.
    Chapter 7 presents insights into the field implementation of one of the selected SLM measures in
    Sehoul, Morocco. The Moroccan DESIRE study site was located near the city of Rabat, in an area where
    desertification poses a threat to marginal and often stony and degraded slopes. The use of marginal and
    stony land by the local population had become necessary due to increased poverty and the occupation of
    the best stretches of land by new owners. The land use change from grazing to cropping caused a
    deterioration of the field water balance, characterised by increased water loss through runoff, drainage,
    and evaporation, and resulting in less primary production. Promising experiences with no-tillage practices
    elsewhere in Morocco had motivated the Moroccan government to promote Conservation Agriculture
    throughout the country. This combination of crop rotation, minimal soil disturbance, and soil cover
    maintenance, however, had not yet been tested on sloping degraded land. The field trial results showed
    that covering the soil with crop residues neither improved yields nor increased rainwater use efficiency,
    although soil water was generally enhanced. Soil moisture measurements revealed that no-tillage was
    favourable mainly at soil depths of 5 cm and in connection with low-rainfall events (< 20 mm); under these
    circumstances, moisture content was generally higher under no-tillage than under conventional tillage.
    Moreover, farmers in Sehoul were found to be primarily interested in animal husbandry, and both crop
    residues and grains were used as feed. Chapter 7 concludes with lessons learnt from the on-farm trials in
    Sehoul.
    The synthesis (Chapter 8) offers more detailed reflection on certain key aspects of the research
    findings, such as the 3-part methodology, monitoring and assessment, stakeholder collaboration and
    learning, decision support, and desertification mitigation by means of SLM technologies and approaches.
    This is followed by a review of challenges and limitations of the proposed methodological framework and
    an assessment of its overall impact. The chapter concludes with an outlook and recommendations. One
    major conclusion is that research needs to move beyond simply idealising and promoting participatory
    approaches and learning processes: in addition, researchers must also advocate the provision of time and
    resources and the establishment of long-term partnerships by both scientific and policymaking bodies. Indepth
    and long-term field-based research remains important, but it requires sufficient resources and longterm
    commitment in order to provide adequate evidence. The methodology developed within this thesis is
    not limited to desertification; it is appropriate and useful for tackling land degradation anywhere in the
    world and for advancing towards more sustainable decisions on SLM strategies with a higher acceptance
    among stakeholders. Negotiation of, and deliberation over, ecosystem services might be the key to
    boosting SLM beyond the local scale, while at the same time compensating land users for their crucial
    efforts to combat desertification.

    Mapping the impact of SLM - the WOCAT - DESIRE experience
    Lynden, G.W.J. van; Verzandvoort, S.J.E. ; Schwilch, G. ; Liniger, H.P. - \ 2012
    ABSTRACT Since 1992, the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) initiative has developed a standardized method for documentation of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices. The resulting on-line database currently counts over 450 technologies and over 350 approaches (implementation strategies) from around 50 countries. WOCAT also developed a tool to map land degradation and conservation. This method complements the information provided by the individual case studies on technologies and approaches. It evaluates what land degradation is occurring where and what is done about. The challenge is now to implement SLM practices that address environmental, economic and social concerns, i.e. decreasing degradation and improving ecosystems, while enhancing agricultural productivity and the livelihoods of land users. Research to show and quantify these impacts of SLM practices and on implementation strategies is undertaken in projects like DESIRE, in which the WOCAT methods and tools were used and further developed, from which results are presented herewith. These showed that land degradation mainly occurred as water erosion on cultivated and mixed land use. Degradation was increasing in most sites, primarily caused by inappropriate soil management. Indirectly, population pressure, insecure land tenure, and poverty appeared to be major causes of degradation. Land degradation negatively affected ecosystem services for almost all degraded areas. High negative impacts were observed regarding regulation of ecosystem services indicating that these require particular attention when developing and implementing remediation strategies. SLM measures appeared most effective on cultivated land, but positive impacts were also recorded for relatively large areas of forest and grazing land. Combinations of SLM measures appeared to perform better than single measures. Overall, there appears to be scope for improving SLM contributions to ecosystem services in cultivated land.
    Desire for greener land : options for sustainable land management in drylands
    Schwilch, G. ; Hessel, R. ; Verzandvoort, S.J.E. - \ 2012
    Bern [etc.] : University of Bern [etc.] - ISBN 9789461733290 - 282
    droge gebieden - grondbeheer - duurzaamheid (sustainability) - duurzaam bodemgebruik - woestijnvorming - bodembescherming - waterbeheer - teeltsystemen - begrazingsbeheer - bosbedrijfsvoering - arid lands - land management - sustainability - sustainable land use - desertification - soil conservation - water management - cropping systems - grazing management - forest management
    Desire for Greener Land compiles options for Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in drylands. It is a result of the integrated research project DESIRE (Desertification Mitigation and Remediation of Land - A Global Approach for Local Solutions). Lasting five years (2007–2012) and funded within the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme, DESIRE brought together the expertise of 26 international research institutes and non-governmental organisations. The DESIRE project aimed to establish promising alternative land use and management strategies in 17 degradation and desertification sites around the world, relying on close collaboration between scientists and local stakeholder groups. The study sites provided a global laboratory in which researchers could apply, test, and identify new and innovative approaches to combatting desertification. The resulting SLM strategies are local- to regional-scale interventions designed to increase productivity, preserve natural resource bases, and improve people’s livelihoods. These were documented and mapped using the internationally recognised WOCAT (World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies) methodological framework, which formed an integral part of the DESIRE project. The DESIRE approach offers an integrated multidisciplinary way of working together from the beginning to the end of a project; it enables scientists, local stakeholders and policy makers to jointly find solutions to desertification. This book describes the DESIRE approach and WOCAT methodology for a range of audiences, from local agricultural advisors to scientists and policymakers. Links are provided to manuals and online materials, enabling application of the various tools and methods in similar projects. The book also includes an analysis of the current context of degradation and SLM in the study sites, in addition to analysis of the SLM technologies and approaches trialled in the DESIRE project. Thirty SLM technologies, eight SLM approaches, and several degradation and SLM maps from all the DESIRE study sites are compiled in a concise and well-illustrated format, following the style of this volume’s forerunner where the land is greener (WOCAT 2007). Finally, conclusions and policy points are presented on behalf of decision makers, the private sector, civil society, donors, and the research community. These are intended to support people’s efforts to invest wisely in the sustainable management of land – enabling greener drylands to become a reality, not just a desire.
    Decision support for selecting SLM technologies with stakeholders
    Schwilch, G. ; Bachmann, F. ; Graaff, J. de - \ 2012
    Applied Geography 34 (2012). - ISSN 0143-6228 - p. 86 - 98.
    forest management - land-use - conservation measures - multiple criteria - participation - sustainability - experiences - soil
    Sustainable Land Management (SLM) is a classic multi-stakeholder issue, concerning individual and community land users, agricultural advisors, natural resource managers, government authorities, civil society, and researchers alike. Selecting appropriate SLM technologies for implementation requires an approach capable of integrating the diverse knowledge, perceptions, and judgements of stakeholders. Time and resource constraints often impede the development of contextualised, targeted, and sophisticated Decision Support Systems (DSS). The EU-DESIRE research project provided an excellent opportunity to develop and test a generic decision support system, and overall methodology, using it to assist 14 study site teams in selecting the most promising SLM option(s) in a stakeholder workshop, for eventual test implementation in the field. Special attention was paid to screening local innovations, selecting and adapting potential SLM technologies, and the decision-making process regarding effective implementation. This paper reviews application of the DESIRE-DSS in a variety of biophysical and socio-economic contexts, finding it to be well structured, holistic, and relatively easy-to-apply. The built-in global database of SLM options provides knowledge from various environments, while the use of simple software enables easy calculation and visualisation of results. The scoring and negotiation of each option’s sustainability forces stakeholders to consider and acknowledge each other’s positions and opinions, ensuring that the final choice is well-accepted. The methodology includes seeking commitments from stakeholders to implement the selected option(s). Challenges include the complexity of the issues at hand and the need for capable moderators. Yet positive outcomes and user feedback confirm that the DESIRE-DSS is an easy-to-use stepwise methodology for facilitation of decision-focused participatory processes.
    Experiences in monitoring and assessment of sustainable land management
    Schwilch, G. ; Bestelmeyer, B. ; Bunning, S. ; Critchley, W. ; Herrick, J. ; Kellner, K. ; Liniger, H.P. ; Nachtergaele, F. ; Ritsema, C.J. ; Schuster, B. ; Tabo, R. ; Lynden, G.W.J. van - \ 2011
    Land Degradation and Development 22 (2011)2. - ISSN 1085-3278 - p. 214 - 225.
    degradation - desertification - participation - system
    Although sustainable land management (SLM) is widely promoted to prevent and mitigate land degradation and desertification, its monitoring and assessment (M&A) has received much less attention. This paper compiles methodological approaches which to date have been little reported in the literature. It draws lessons from these experiences and identifies common elements and future pathways as a basis for a global approach. The paper starts with local level methods where the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) framework catalogues SLM case studies. This tool has been included in the local level assessment of Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) and in the EU-DESIRE project. Complementary site-based approaches can enhance an ecological process-based understanding of SLM variation. At national and sub-national levels, a joint WOCAT/LADA/DESIRE spatial assessment based on land use systems identifies the status and trends of degradation and SLM, including causes, drivers and impacts on ecosystem services. Expert consultation is combined with scientific evidence and enhanced where necessary with secondary data and indicator databases. At the global level, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) knowledge from the land (KM:Land) initiative uses indicators to demonstrate impacts of SLM investments. Key lessons learnt include the need for a multi-scale approach, making use of common indicators and a variety of information sources, including scientific data and local knowledge through participatory methods. Methodological consistencies allow cross-scale analyses, and findings are analysed and documented for use by decision-makers at various levels. Effective M&A of SLM [e.g. for United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)] requires a comprehensive methodological framework agreed by the major players
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