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Rangeland Management Options in the Face of Global Climate Change –

Taking a look at West Africa

Project Aim

Grazing systems are among the most important components of regional land use systems in West Africa. Our aim is to improve the understanding of grazing systems’ resilience and their adaptation to changing climate. This understanding is of crucial importance for the livelihood of rural people in the region. 

Also see our regularly updated project homepage on ResearchGate!


In our research activities within WASCAL (WP 2.2  in WASCAL’s Core Research Program), we combine approaches from ecology, remote sensing and social anthropology to come to a functional understanding of grazing systems’ resilience and their adaptation to changing climate.

(a) Gradient approach: We extend our field investigations beyond WASCAL’s main research area  to include a steep gradient of climatic aridity (see map of our study area, right). Hence, we use a space-for-time substitution to evaluate climate change effects on forage resources and other ecosystem services (see Guuroh et al. 2017). Forage resources are assessed non-destructively; for forage quantity, we use allometric models to calculate aboveground biomass from data on plants’ cover and height; for forage quality, we use field spectroscopy (see photograph, right) and a spectral model calibrated with data from our study area (Ferner et al., 2015).

(b) Field experiment: The resilience of degraded rangeland vegetation in dependence on topo-edaphic factors is evaluated with a long-term grazing exclosure experiment in Northern Ghana. It was set up in 2012 and is ongoing (see photograph, bottom right). [Click here for details]

(c) Remote sensing: We use cutting-edge satellite technology for a spatial upscaling of field observations on the quality and quantity of forage.

(d) Comparative anthropological study: We evaluate the local knowledge and natural resource management of pastoralists along the steep climate gradient. A main focus is the knowledge of spatio-temporal patterns in the quality and quantity of forage resources. For an assessment of grazing management, data on mobility decisions and alternative herd management strategies are recorded on household level.

(e) Synthesis: By linking spatio-temporal patterns in forage supply to local grazing management, a functional understanding of interactions between the social and ecological subsystem will be achieved. The approach builds upon existing local knowledge on sustainable land use – hence, it is also a learning approach.

PIsProf Dr Sebastian Schmidtlein  (KIT Karlsruhe)
PD Dr Anja Linstädter
Persons involved
Jessica Ferner (PhD student)
Reginald T. Guuroh (PhD student)
Kristijan Canak (PhD student)
John-Baptist S.N. Naah (PhD student)
Runtime02/2011 – 12/2017
FundingFederal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Burkina Faso
Dr Oblé Neya, WASCAL Competence Centre, Ouagadougou
Dr Oumarou Ouédraogo, University of Ouagadougou

Dr Ursula Gessner, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen
Prof Dr Stefan Porembski, Department of Botany, University of Rostock
Dr Katharina Stein, Department of Botany, University of Rostock

PublicationsSee WASCAL webpage