Evaluating ecosystem services in production versus water yield and water quality in mountain landscapes
International Research and Training Group (DFG-IRTG)
As part of a broader initiative to study Global Change, the University of Bayreuth Centers for Ecosystem and Environmental Research, BayCEER, and the Center for Natural Risks and Development, ZENEB, have been granted funds by the DFG to establish an International Research Training Group together with the Kangwon National University in Chuncheon, Korea and the Korean Forest Research Institute in Seoul.
The TERRECO-IRTG program, which can run for 9 years, examines the way to carry out land management in mountain regions, in order to ensure sustainable yield of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are all of the products and gains that people obtain from natural ecosystems and natural resources in a region. The training program is planned to support three consecutive groups of 13 doctoral candidates over three year periods in the fields of meteorology, plant ecology, agroecology, zoology, soil ecology, soil physics, hydrology, and population and social geography. The speaker of the TERRECO program is Prof. Dr. John Tenhunen, head of the Department of Plant Ecology.
During recent decades, land and resource use has been dramatically changing worldwide, and impacts on natural and managed ecosystems have increased to alarming levels. Climate change due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is altering the radiation input, temperature regime, and precipitation regime of ecosystems, and threatens to change water availability and plant production. Atmospheric deposition of chemicals and intensive land use with high levels of fertilization have modified plant growth, nutrition in ecosystems, nutrient transport into river systems, the composition of natural communities, and even the susceptibility of organisms to disease. The resulting changes in ecosystems can reduce ecosystem services, i.e., agricultural and forest products, yield of high quality water into rivers, streams and reservoirs, and regional biodiversity.
The TERRECO-IRTG will develop models for application in mountain landscapes to predict the level of ecosystem services that may be expected under future expected climate conditions, but also with changes in land use that occur due to local decisions. The mountain study sites at which doctoral students will work are located in the Upper Eger Basin of the Fichtelgebirge and in the central part of Korea just south of the demilitarised zone (DMZ). Particularly the gains and losses will be studied that occur when land on steep slopes is used for agriculture versus forestry. Korea is very mountainous with limited areas with flat land, and cultivation of slopes is much more common than in Germany. High levels of fertilizer application together with erosion during the summer monsoon in Korea lead to high transport of nutrients to storage reservoirs that provide the drinking water to large cities like Seoul with a population of 20 million. Thus, agriculture does not only provide a positive gain, but results also in costs due to the need for water purification.
Such studies of the many possible directions in which future climates and local decision making can alter ecosystem services requires a complex joint effort in ecology, in biogeochemistry and hydrology, in simulation modelling, and in social behavior and economics. A steering committee of 5 members including Prof. John Tenhunen, Prof. Egbert Matzner (Bodenökologie), Prof. Bernd Huwe (Bodenphysik), Prof. Stefan Peiffer (Hydrologie) and Prof. Detlef Müller-Mahn (Sozialgeographie) will coordinate the activities of approximately 30 faculty members at the University of Bayreuth and in Korea. Doctoral candidates will experience a very broad training that prepares them in very new ways to play a role in the management of natural resources in local, state and national agencies. Especially the joining of natural science and social science influences on future landscapes and ecosystem services is a unique component of the TERRECO program of studies. The TERRECO project is a first step in building a permanent, formalized doctoral training at UBT in so-called “transdisciplinary environmental problem solving” as part of the planned School of Natural Sciences. It is a natural step that capitalizes on synergy developed between the existing University of Bayreuth Centers for Ecosystem and Environmental Research, BayCEER, and for Natural Risks and Development, ZENEB, and on existing expertise among UBT faculty in global change science.