2005-2010, Mediterranean, Magreb, Sahel, China, Chile, Europe

[b]State of the art[/b]
Surveillance is needed for making one-off and periodical assessments of the desertification status, forecasting its trajectories (early warning), and for evaluating the performance of management programmes. Despite of their importance, assessment procedures, which form the core of surveillance systems, have so far been largely empirical and focused on the symptoms of desertification (land degradation) rather than on the underlying drivers and processes. Only in the late nineties, the synergies between human and climatic drivers, as well as the temporal and spatial scales of the phenomenon began to be perceived and integrated in broad paradigms, such as the Dahlem paradigm that focuses on the interrelationships within coupled human-environmental systems causing desertification. However, desertification assessment procedures still lag behind these conceptual developments. Because of their symptomatic and empirical approach their application is intrinsically local. Consequently, their use at global or regional scales is impractical, requiring costly and long-term field observations. Due to the lack of a dynamic integration of the human system, the early warning capacity of existing assessment procedures relies on intuitive indicators with limited possibilities for the quantification of uncertainty.

DeSurvey aims to fill these gaps by developing a prototype of a low cost and flexible surveillance system that allows for:
* Understanding of desertification in a systemic and dynamic manner.

  • Assessing desertification and land degradation status, including diagnosis of driving forces, discrimination between current and inherited desertification, and identification of desertification hot spots.

  • Forecasting of desertification under selected climatic and socio-economic scenarios.

  • Monitoring of desertification and land degradation status over large areas using objective and reproducible methods.

  • Bridging the gap between the knowledge generated by the project on the processes underlying desertification and the practice of formulating policy to detect, prevent and resolve desertification risks.[/c]
    The system is intended to be used at several temporal and spatial resolutions by national and regional environmental and agricultural authorities, such as the European Union (EU), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and local consortia of stakeholders in risk-affected districts. The project outcomes will provide a core set of procedures for applying DESURVEY in user-defined areas. The geographical scope of the project is primarily the EU member countries affected by desertification. However it will be designed for a wider application. To this purpose validation experiments will be made in a selection of desertification case studies in the southern Mediterranean and other affected areas around the world. The single, contractual objective of DeSurvey is therefore to provide such a prototype according to the above description.

[b]RIKS role in DeSurvey[/b]
RIKS is one of the key partners in DeSurvey and has the lead in no less than 2 of the 9 Research and Development modules. In particular in the modules [i]Socio-Economic drivers[/i] and [i]Implementation of the DeSurvey Surveillance System[/i]. Apart from this, RIKS partakes in a considerable number of the Work packages as well as in the training and dissemination activities of the project.

The module [b]Socio-Economic drivers[/b] aims at downscaling current and past values as well as scenarios and forecasts of demographic and economic growth and their associated land claims (total, residential and per economic sector) from the global (EU) to the country and county (NUTS 2 and/or NUTS 3) levels. The forecasted land claims will be allocated in space in a detailed manner and will thus be transformed into spatial changes of Land Use Systems (LUS). To achieve this aim, downscaling will be performed at two scales: the macro-scale dealing with dynamics in the demography and the economy at the level of NUTS 2 or NUTS 3 regions, and the micro-scale dealing with local socioeconomic interactions and location principles. At
both scales, process-based socioeconomic indicators will enable monitoring and early warning of
associated desertification risks.
Based on the above, it will expand on and apply a spatially-dynamic land use model began in the EU-GMES project LADAMER enabling the analysis of the effects of economic driving forces on land use changes and associated desertification risks at different geographical levels (EU, country, county, and detailed cellular entities), at different temporal scales (months, years and decades) and under different hypothesis and scenarios relative to the future. This model will become a cornerstone in the Desurvey Surveillance System and will be further enhanced to incorporate model components developed in most of the other Modules and Workpackages of the project.

The module [b]Implementation of the DeSurvey Surveillance System[/b].
Bridging the gap between the knowledge generated by the sciences on the processes underlying desertification and the practice of formulating policy to detect, prevent and resolve desertification risks is a non-trivial task. Relevant policy formulating bodies at different spatial scales cannot simply use ‘off the shelf’ scientific information or easily integrate model- or data-based support systems into their organisational processes. Further it is now well recognised that environmental policy formulation is not a well-defined task composed of easily defined problems ‘solved’ by one or a few identifiable ‘decision makers’. Indeed one of the major tasks in environmental policy formulation is to determine what factors and issues should be considered. This is an activity that cannot be supported by traditional tools for which the decision agenda (set of issues and solutions considered) is essentially fixed and for which it is not easy to reflect changes over time in the perception of what constitutes the problem set to be addressed.
The objectives of this module is to assess policy information needs and support tool deployment (or use) opportunities; the processes, mechanisms and indicators that are regarded as scientifically important to desertification; the functionality and data characteristics of detection, analysis and planning tools currently available (within DeSurvey), and; how best to interface these tools to fit different user contexts, policy objectives and substantive issues. The DeSurvey Surveillance System will be implemented in accordance with the results of this analysis.

In a first Work package, carried out primarily by Cranfield University, research and work will be devoted to: (i) assessing the fit between policy needs, end user contexts (cultural, organisational, disciplinary etc.) substantive issues and tool functionality, and; (ii) developing interface specifications, guidelines and criteria to which models, tools and documentation delivered by the Project Modules should adhere with a view of their integration in the DeSurvey Surveillance System.

A second Work package, carried out by RIKS, will design and implement the DeSurvey Surveillance System. The latter will integrate the models and tools developed in the project as part of a single information system and make them usable to potential users through a user-friendly interface. The system will feature an open, flexible architecture enabling its future extension and upgrading. At the core of the system will be an Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) coupling into a single model, to the extent possible and needed, the main climatological,
physical, ecological and socio-economic processes representing the complex driving forces leading to land use changes and desertification and which are studied and modelled in the other modules of the project. This IAM is developed with an aim to support integrated analysis of desertification problems and the design and assessment of measures and policies for mitigation. It will be complemented with tools and models that, due to their complexity or particular technical nature, can not or need not be part of the IAM but are essential for carrying out additional tasks relative to monitoring, parameterisation, calibration, analysis, etc. The Work package will also develop the documentation of the DeSurvey Surveillance System. The documentation will detail (i) how the tools may be used in isolation or in conjunction with one another to explore issues related to desertification; (ii) the reasoning behind the selection of the issues and tools included, and; (iii) user instructions for each tool.

Finally a third work package, carried out by a larger group of partners, will carry out the validation of the DeSurvey Surveillance System in non-European areas which are well known as threatened by desertification.