BC3. Basque centre for climate change – Klima aldaketa ikergai

Objective 3: Integrated agriculture and land management for sustainability

Effective land use decisions require process understanding and consideration of the interplay of social, economic and environmental effects on land use change, the recovery pathways of agricultural systems, and the socio-ecological tradeoffs between SDGs. We will explore different aspects that are relevant for socially efficient allocation of land (soil, water, forest, etc.) resources in terms of their long-term conservation as well as for their ongoing utilization. Key analytical criteria are environmental sustainability, economic efficiency and social and equitable development potential of land use change. Such land use change is seen as key for promoting integrative, climate-smart agriculture and ecosystem management, which can generate new knowledge to inform policy design and/or be used in the implementation of actions by stakeholders on the ground. The activities below are strongly related in their aim to improve and further develop bottom-up methodologies and estimates of carbon capture by reinforcing ecosystems monitoring and experimentation on terrestrial systems in relation to adaptation mechanisms and mitigation opportunities for climate change. Under this objective, and to reinforce activities 3.1. and 3.2 below, in the following years BC3 will need to invest in the implementation of spaces and infrastructures for the study of ecosystems and their resilience to climate change, for: (1) supporting long-term ecosystem monitorization and manipulation, and; (2) supporting a strong research line of field and laboratory environmental experimentation.


Activity 3.1. Understanding ecosystem resilience after climate change for restoring degraded areas.

We will expand our study on how ecosystems affected by ancient agricultural or mining uses recover over long periods of time in areas of Spain and the Artic (links with activities 1.1 and 1.2). This knowledge will allow us to understand their recovery over long periods of time and how they are affected by past climate changes. It could also inform environmental policies and strategies for land conservation and restoration. (Lead: David Moreno)


Activity 3.2. Understanding vulnerability of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change and assisting their adaptation.  

We need to urgently provide a sound scientific base for: (1) improving management practices to help terrestrial ecosystems to adapt to climate change (assisted evolution); (2) identifying those ecosystem functions that emerge at regional/global scales as critical properties for ecosystem functioning and resilience- e.g. soil/plant functional diversity, vulnerability of key functional groups and key metabolic paths (e.g. phosphorous mineralization), and; (3) detecting early stages of ecosystem vulnerability -- e.g. early bioindicators of ecosystem health via plant growth, vegetation regeneration, soil erosion. Methodologies will include global and national surveys (i.e. NFI, Pan-European networks, biogeographical surveys, use of remote sensing), ecosystem scale monitoring and experimentation (i.e. ecosystem fluxes, demography and growth-dendro, structure and health), modeling, and experimentation under control conditions on biodiversity (i.e. metabarcoding, enzymes, CLPP, mineralization) and trophic structure of soil communities. Some of the ongoing activities include: understanding patterns of climate change induced forest die-off and consequences for ecosystem function and services in Holm-oak forest in Spain and Conifer forest in the Carpathians; warming manipulations in high altitude tropical ecosystems (Paramos) funded by COLCIENCIA (Colombia); development of new generation mechanistic models of soil functioning in the framework of two EU COST actions (Keysom and BioLink), and; leading a monitoring network (http://decaimientoencinar.wix.com/ of forest die-off  ) already launched in the framework of a Spanish project. It is expected to expand activities by leading and coordinating Regional (Basque Country), National (Spanish) and EU H2020 initiatives on detecting forest vulnerability and improving management practices to assist adaptation of forests under climate change scenarios. (Lead: J. Curiel) 


Activity 3.3. Integrated solutions for the Livestock sector.

We aim to continue developing modelling tools (e.g. SIMSDAIRY, SIMSNIC), from the farm level to regional scales, in order to investigate different scenarios that can both mitigate GHG emissions and promote soil C sinks in both the livestock sector and indirectly affected sectors, prioritizing: effective reductions in GHGs (taking into account their GWP); cost-effectiveness; trade-offs; and sustainability in terms of animal welfare and productivity, biodiversity and socio-economic resiliency (Climate change adaptation).  Challenges in relation to the impacts of sustainable intensification and potential knock-on indirect effects (e.g. indirect land use change) will be investigated. It is expected to contribute to one IPCC methodological report for livestock and soil GHG emissions. (Lead: A. Del Prado)


Activity 3.4. Land use and the agri-food system.

We will investigate the effects of closed nutrient loops on environmental impact, resilience and sustainability at different levels of the agri-food system, by optimizing the relationship between agriculture, land use and waste management.  A consequential life cycle analysis (C-LCA) approach coupled with existing models developed by the group (e.g. SIMSWASTE) will be used to model outputs at the farm and land use levels in order to understand if the environmental impacts of resource use competition can be used by different livestock systems, bioenergy and composting. (Lead: A. Del Prado)


Activity 3.5: Modelling social-ecological dynamics of agrobiodiversity.

Preserving agrobiodiversity requires integrative management to foster effective, equitable and climate-smart agricultural systems. To better understand how institutions, including markets and policies, can co-evolve to support sustainable agrobiodiversity under climate change, we will analyze both its and related governance options. One Spanish National Plan project (ESPERA) and one Future Earth (PEGASUS) project are ongoing. (Lead: U. Pascual)


Activity 3.6. Mitigation and Adaptation contributions and tradeoffs in the land sector.

The agriculture and land use sector contributes approximately 11Gt CO2eq (24%) of GHG emissions, with approximately 50% from land use and 50% from agriculture. However, terrestrial natural and semi-natural systems also sequester more than 1/3 of annual anthropogenic emissions, allowing the land sector the opportunity not only to decarbonize, but also to generate negative emissions. Accurate attribution of the carbon sink potential of the Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems and prediction of its evolution under climate change, including the understanding of the environmental and socioeconomic drivers of land use change at different scales (from global to local, Objective 3 links here with the tools of Objective 2), is critical to reducing the risk of adopting ineffective or counterproductive land use policies. In addition to developing methodologies to improve estimations and perform analytical work of bottom-up carbon estimates, the research will provide a basis for explaining discrepancies within top-down assessments at national and global scales. It is expected to: contribute to one IPCC methodological report, one IPCC Special Report, o the IPCC sixth Assessement Report. (Lead: M.J. Sanz)


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