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Modelling range management with variable rainfall in a semi-arid region to identify key-resources


What limits the livelihood of pastoralists in semi-arid rangelands? - A social-ecological modelling study

We aim to analyze the consequences of climate and land use change on pastoral livelihood security. This was exemplified by a case study on nomadic herdsmen in the High Atlas Mountains of Southern Morocco. The challenge was to evaluate diverse aspects of pastoralism and their combined impact on pastoral households. To achieve this goal, we developed an ecological-economic simulation model on spatially heterogeneous rangelands. The resulting herd size dynamics were then evaluated by means of an innovative risk assessment, to identify the constraints under which income for households is not sufficient anymore in three different model applications.

Consequences of projected climate change for drylands were investigated in terms of increased precipitation variability and decreased mean annual precipitation. Interestingly, increasing precipitation variability had a smaller effect on the sustenance of the herd size than for example a decreased mobility. Especially the negative effects of extremely high precipitation variability were not confirmed by this study. This can be partly explained by the traits of perennial vegetation. Mediterranean shrubs are able to conserve reserves that buffer effects of variable precipitation and production of forage. But even more important is the adaptive strategy of mobile and frequently destocked herds, which allows sufficient pasture resting and thereby a sufficient performance of vegetation and herd size.

The problem-oriented modelling approach of this work contributes to the integration of natural and social sciences in research on range management in drylands. The interdisciplinary perspective supports mutual understanding on principles of sustainable land use which could be transfered to wider regions.

Person in charge:

Dr. Romina Martin (née Drees)[1,2]

Person(s) involved:

PD Dr. Anja Linstädter[2], Prof. Karin Frank[1], Dr. Birgit Müller[1], Prof. Dr. Michael Bonkowski[3]




SFB 586:, project Sustainability of (Post-)Nomadic Resource Utilization Under Global Change - Conceptual Understanding Through Ecological-Economic Modelling


Cooperating partner(s):

[1] Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ
[2] Range Ecology and Range Management, Botanical Institute of the University of Cologne
[3] Terrestrial Ecology, Zoological Institute of the University of Cologne


Martin (née Drees), R., Linstädter, A., Frank, K. & Müller, B., 2016. Livelihood security in face of drought - Assessing the vulnerability of pastoral households. Environmental Modelling & Software. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2014.10.012 [Download PrePrint]

Müller, B., Schulze, J., Kreuer, A., Linstädter, A., Frank, K. 2015. How to avoid unsustainable side effects of managing climate risk in drylands – The supplementary feeding controversy. Agricultural Systems (139): 153-165.  DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2015.07.001

Martin (née Drees), R. , Müller, B., Linstädter, A., Frank, K., 2014. How much climate change can pastoral livelihoods tolerate? Modelling rangelands and evaluating risk. Global Environmental Change 24: 183-192. DOI: /10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.09.009 [Download PrePrint]

Drees, R., Linstädter, A., Frank, K., Müller, B., (2012). Which household tolerates droughts? - Strategies to secure pastoral livelihoods. Proceedings of International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software (iEMSs).

Groeneveld, J., Müller, B., Angermüller, F., Drees, R., Dressler, G., Klassert, C., Schlüter, M., Schulze, J., Weise, H., Schwarz, N., (2012). Good modelling practice: expanding the ODD model description protocol for socio-environmental agent based models. Proceedings of International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software (iEMSs).

Müller, B., Angermüller, F., Drees, R., Dressler, G., Groeneveld, J., Klassert, C., Schlüter, M., Schulze, J., Weise, H., Schwarz, N., (2012). Describing Human Decisions in Agent-Based Social-Ecological Models - ODD+D an Extension of the ODD Protocol, online as working paper:

Drees, R., Linstädter, A., Müller, B. & Frank, K. 2010. The role of key resources to ensure livelihood security and ecological sustainability – a range management modeling study, Tropentag conference.

Drees, R., Müller, B., Frank, K. & Linstädter, A. 2010. The role of key resources to ensure sustainable range management – a modeling study, GFOE conference.