BC3. Basque centre for climate change – Klima aldaketa ikergai

Objective 3: Integrated agriculture and land management for sustainability

Terrestrial ecosystems play an essential role in achieving many of the SDGs. Sustainable land use can reconcile future challenges related to provision of the basic ecosystem services supporting human societies, while also conserve habitats and biodiversity, serve to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Effective land use and conservation decisions require ecological process understanding and consideration of the interplay of social, economic and environmental factors. 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. We will explore different aspects related to terrestrial ecosystems adaptation mechanisms and mitigation opportunities for climate change, including reinforcing ecosystems monitoring and experimentation and those that are relevant for socially efficient allocation of land resources in terms of their long-term conservation as well as for their ongoing utilization. Under this objective, and to reinforce activities 3.1. and 3.2 below, BC3 will continue to invest in LurLab1,2,3 for: (1) supporting long-term ecosystem monitorization and manipulation, and; (2) supporting laboratory environmental experimentation.

  Activity 3.1. Understanding, predicting and mitigating the effects of global change on ecosystem functioning.

Addressing Global Change impacts on natural ecosystems is one of the greatest challenges that largely hinges on our ability to understand ecosystem functioning and predict ecosystem responses to different stressors. Here we aim: (1) to understand the short and long term (up to several millennia) response of ecosystems to anthropogenic global change by the study of the response of ecosystems to a suite of perturbations across different scales of complexity ranging from species diversity to community structure and dynamics, ecosystem functioning or stability (particularly focus in understanding the effects of global scale impacts, including land use change and CO2 emission, and their main consequences, habitat fragmentation and loss, increased temperatures, or invasive species); and (2) to predict its effects by developing theoretical and empirical sound models to inform ecosystem conservation and restoration practices moving beyond traditional phenomenological and context-dependent management plans towards a more mechanistic, community- and ecosystem-level perspective of ecosystem conservation and restoration. We finally combine models, observations and experiments to address how ecosystems functioning will evolve in an era of global change. To reach our aims, we are working in a series of regional sites (e.g. Gorbeia Natural Park, Artikutza Reserve) and international sites (e.g. Norse sites in Greenland, Pre-Columbian sites in the Amazon). We will expand the current list of sites to establish a network of field sites for monitoring and experimentation on the impacts of global change on ecosystem functioning. We are particularly interested in ecosystems along climatic gradients and on sites where previous and current land use history threatens the maintenance of ecosystem functionality.

Activity 3.2. Understanding vulnerability of forest ecosystems to climate change and assisting their adaptation (SECOHEALTH group).

Special focus on forest ecosystems is foreseen, given the large role they are expected to play in mitigation by 2050 and that they are experimenting increasingly frequent episodes of die-back and will be increasingly threatened by climate changes and related disturbances (e.g. wind throw, insect outbreaks, and fires) that will make its future management challenging. To understand legacies of past forest management is also fundamental, since they can be one of the predisposing factors in the context of current drought die-back processes, to adopt adaptative management and increase resilience of forest ecosystems. In this context, also a more systemic view is needed, for instance, the role of soils and particularly the soil biota, as key contributors to the functioning and stability of forest ecosystems, is generally overlooked in soil and ecosystem models. Given the IPCC climate scenarios, understanding how functional diversity in the soil biota contributes to forest stability under drought, not only directly (via mycorrhiza) but also indirectly by modifying soil structure, as a key factor in water availability becomes key to improve models to improve future predictions. The SECOHEALTH group will, hence, develop studies in forest ecosystems aiming at understanding: (1) the role of past management on current responses to climate-change; (2) the role of management on soil health and ecosystem stability in the face of climate-change; and (3) the contribution of soils, in particular biodiversity, to ecosystem resilience and resistance. By combining data collection (monitoring along climatic gradients), compilation and consolidation, remote sensing tools, and field manipulation experiments to establish quantitative links between, soil biodiversity, land-use/management intensity, ecosystem stability, and historical forest growth (e.g. dendrochronology) in the face of climate-change. These data will be used to validate and improve soil models (e.g. KEYLINK) that will be further coupled with ecosystem and land surface models to evaluate the capacity of natural and managed forests to adapt to drought.

Activity 3.3. Food systems in the global change era.

The future of crop production (farming) in the context of global change is challenging and key to achieve SDG 2. This challenge relates to the complexity of the food systems and require combining solutions such as changing diet, increasing crop yield and diversity (safeguarding biological diversity to ensure stable yields in the mid- to long-term) or optimization of irrigation. However, our current understanding of the ecological mechanisms, including those mediated by biodiversity, that underlie sustainable food production in real agroecosystems remains incomplete. We investigate in a global change context. To explore how agriculture can promote biodiversity and food production simultaneously, we are developing biologically realistic models that incorporate global change drivers, management scenarios (e.g. wildlife-friendly farming, monocultures vs polycultures), a wide representation of services and stakeholder demands, and more complexity in biodiversity components, specifically the role of interaction networks on food production and food security. Here, we gather worldwide datasets to inform and test model predictions to provide specific guidelines to improve food production schemes while enhancing biodiversity conservation at various scales, from local to global.

Activity 3.4. The role of the livestock systems in reaching GHG neutrality and promoting sustainability.

We aim to continue developing modelling tools and building narratives, from the farm level to regional scales, in relation to different scenarios that can reduce GHG emissions, promote soil C sinks, maintain biodiversity and increase resilience in both the livestock sector and indirectly affected sectors that could be relevant for the update of the Natural Determined Contributions (NDCs) while promoting more sustainable and socially inclusive livestock systems. Priority areas of research will be: 1) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA - Carbon foot printing and farm modelling refining methods and providing new estimates of GHG impact for different livestock production systems - intensive, extensive, transhumance- and assessing the effect of mitigation measures); 2) Analysis of strengths and limitations of GWP* metrics in the assessment of the Agriculture sector climate impacts and the resulting policy development implications (including development of LCA and sustainability frameworks and co-design of assessment tools for specific production systems and scales); 3) Developing natural GHGs baselines for livestock systems using as case study estimation of changes in historical CH4 (and N2O) emissions in different scales (Regional -i.e. North America, Europe-, national -i.e. Spain-, sub-national – i.e. Basque Country-) and characterizing and analysing specific local systems carrying capacity of natural herbivory vs. livestock (e.g. Cabañeros-Spain, Serengeti-Tanzania, Chernobyl-Ukraine). Special attention will be payed to mobile livestock vs.) natural migratory herbivore systems because of their higher productivity and contribution to the maintenance of ecosystem processes. Given the recent social interest on some aspects of the livestock sector impacts on climate change and global change, specific attention to outreach activities will be given by production of scripts for video-infographics or small documentaries on livestock, climate change and sustainability will be developed to inform society (e.g. about sustainable and unsustainable systems, GHG emissions and to who can be attributed, etc.).

Activity 3.5. Mitigating climate change through land systems.

The agriculture and land use sector (AFOLU) contribute approximately 11Gt CO2eq (24%) of global GHG emissions, with approximately 50 % from land use and 50 % from agriculture (IPCC, 2019). 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. The global carbon neutrality objective by 2050 requires ambitious emission reductions of AFOLU emissions and the maximization of carbon sinks for which the sector is a critical source globally. We aim to: 1) Produce more 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, SO3 links here with IAMs models at SO2) to contribute to the Global Stock Take debates starting in GST2023; 2) Explore narratives and pathways, bottom up built with national and local entities, but coherent with the global goals, for which Natural Base Solutions contribute to mitigate (taking into account impacts of) climate change consistently with other objectives of the sector that can support local and national land restauration efforts (restauration of socio-ecological systems), including increasing ambition of NDCs; 3) Explore evolution of international trade regimes as a key lever to trigger changes in the AFOLU sector by tracking the land footprint and GHG content for agricultural commodities (SO3 links here with the tools of SO2). This requires not only technical change but also a combination of measures adjusted to the local context and also, a more comprehensive/systemic approach to restore socio-ecological systems that needs urgently to be explored, in particular at local scales with direct involvement of local communities and farmers (Led by M.J. Sanz).

Activity 3.6. Social-ecological analysis of the biodiversity-climate-society nexus.

Climate (mitigation and adaptation) and Biodiversity (conservation and management) interact in complex ways. Interventions can be designed at different scales to manage ecosystems in ways that create co-beneficial, rather than trade-offs and co-detrimental, outcomes. Social systems flow in and out of biodiversity-climate interactions (e.g. social institutions determine to a large extent the strength and direction of such interactions and translate impacts into people´s wellbeing). Hence a social-ecological approach is needed to analyse the complexity of the biodiversity-climate-society nexus. This can support envisioning more just and sustainable pathways for people and nature.


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