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DFG Research Group starts Research on ecosystem restoration in Africa

2023-04-04 Lüneburg. The German Research Foundation (DFG) has now announced the funding of new research groups. The research group "A Social-Ecological Systems Approach to inform Ecosystem Restoration in Rural Africa" has also been included in the funding. More than 3 million euros will be available for this project over the next four years. The Leuphana University Lüneburg, the Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Göttingen and the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research are involved in the project. The spokesperson of the research group is the expert on sustainable land use, Prof. Dr. Jörn Fischer from Leuphana.

"The restoration of ecosystems has become a global priority in view of climate change, biodiversity loss and soil degradation," says Jörn Fischer, describing the starting point for the now funded project. In this context, he refers to numerous global initiatives that attempt to promote the restoration of ecosystems: One of them, the "Bonn Challenge", aims to restore 350 million hectares of land by 2030.

However, the ecological, social and socio-ecological consequences of the large-scale restoration initiatives are still poorly understood. Therefore, the researchers in their project are interested in understanding to what extent different approaches are actually successful in restoring biodiversity. In doing so, they are also looking at social consequences, for example for the cohesion of communities or the emergence of social injustice. So far, little is known about these social-ecological interrelationships.

Specifically, the research group will be working on eight sub-projects on the restoration of ecosystems in western Rwanda. Ecosystems are being restored at various locations throughout the country by planting trees. The scientists want to investigate the resulting changes in, for example, the composition of woody vegetation, the landscape context and ultimately biodiversity. Part of the research will involve using satellite data to identify and analyse landscape changes over the past decades. Particular attention will be paid to the connectivity factor, as good connectivity between sites has a positive influence on biodiversity.

Another perspective, however, is the complex relationship between ecosystems and people. Social-ecological research, for example, looks at the influence of restoration initiatives on local communities and their social cohesion. This involves recognition, respect and the inclusion of local people's identity, culture and traditional ties to the land as well as the way communities are involved in decision-making related to restoration.

"The research group will break new scientific ground both in Germany and internationally, creating enormous added value beyond what could be achieved by separate research projects," Professor Fischer is convinced.

Research groups enable scientists to address current and pressing questions in their fields and to establish innovative lines of work. In total, the DFG currently funds 182 research groups, 12 clinical research groups and 17 collegiate research groups.