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Our Role within SALLnet

Workpackage 2: Rangelands & Agroforestry


Aims: We focus on the ecology and on adaptive management options of Limpopo’s multifunctional landscapes, in particular on rangelands and agroforestry systems. Our ultimate goal is to help farmers achieve resilience in their livelihoods, and to cope better with future climatic conditions.

Approach: To generate results on spatial and temporal scales relevant for decision-making, we combine (a) experiments with (b) field observations, and (c) synergetic analysis.

(a) Experiments: At the heart of our activities is our field experiment DroughtAct, located on the Experimental Farm of the University of Limpopo (see map). This experiment has been set up to evaluate land-use options under (post-)drought conditions. By combining grazing and drought treatments, we address two main research questions: (1) What determines rangelands’ stability (buffering capacity) in face of drought? (2) What are suitable management interventions to avoid degradation (shifts to undesirable states)? After four years of grazing and drought treatments, we will implement a bush encroachment add-on. To this end, nutrient addition and tree seeding treatments will be added.

(b) Field observations: To assess climate change effects on multiple ecosystem services provided by rangelands and agroforestry systems, we will concentrate on SALLnet's 15 target villages along the steep gradient of climatic aridity in Limpopo. Plots will be established in villages’ rangelands and homegardens. Soil- and vegetation mediated ecosystem services will mainly be assessed via a Rapid Ecosystem Functioning Assessment (REFA) while ecosystem services provided by higher trophic levels will mainly be evaluated with a functional trait approach.

(c) Synergies and Upscaling: Field data from the 15 target villages will be used for an integrated assessment of ecosystem services delivered by Limpopo’s multifunctional landscapes. We aim at addressing interactions (synergies and trade-offs) of multiple ecosystem services within and across land-use types, and under future climate conditions. In a first step, ecosystem service bundles will be identified and trade-offs will be quantified. We will then explore direct and indirect effects of environmental conditions (including changing climate and land-use) on ecosystem multifunctionality.

There are options to participate as a student volunteer or for MSc/BSc level theses. Applications should be sent to Anja Linstädter.


PD Dr Anja Linstädter

Persons involved

Designated PostDoc: Kai Behn
PhD student: Vincent Mokoka


08/2018 - 07/2021


SPACES2 Call of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)


Prof Dr Johannes Isselstein, Grassland Science, Department of Crop Sciences, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen
Dr Simon Scheiter, BiK-F, Senckenberg Natural History Museum and Research Institute, Frankfurt am Main
Prof Dr Catrin Westphal, Agroecology, Department of Crop Science, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen

South Africa
Prof Dr Kingsley Ayisi, Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Centre, University of Limpopo
Louis Eloff, Experimental Farm Syferkuil, School of Science and Agriculture, University of Limpopo
Prof Dr Barend Erasmus, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Science, University of the Witwatersrand
Prof Dr Stefan Foord, Department of Zoology, University of Venda
Dr Frances Siebert, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North West University South Africa
Prof Dr Wayne Twine, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Science, University of the Witwatersrand


Pfeiffer, M., Langan, L., Linstädter, A., Martens, C., Gaillard, C., Ruppert, J., Higgins, S., Mudongo, E. and Scheiter, S. (2019). Grazing and aridity reduce perennial grass abundance in semi-arid rangelands – Insights from a trait-based dynamic vegetation model. Ecological Modelling, 395, pp. 11-22. Available at: URL.