Project: Agricultural and aquatic systems

Participating Centers: DLR, UFZ

Contacts: H. Vogel, M. Weitere, C. Künzer, M. Ließ

The aim of the “Agricultural and aquatic systems” project is to record the development of these sensitive and complex systems with regard to climatic extremes in Germany. We want to predict as closely as possible the development of soil functions, agricultural productivity, as well as the water quality of river ecosystems for different climate scenarios.

In evaluating soil functions, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research will be building on the latest soil-related findings. In particular, we will be studying how soil fertility, in addition to the other soil functions in nutrient cycling and for carbon storage, changes in relation to climate conditions. An assessment of the key soil properties that is as precise as possible will form the basis of such an investigation. As part of the project, we plan to optimize this data set with regard to soil functions.

The German Aerospace Center will use remote-sensing methods to map agricultural usage. Local land-use patterns and anomalies in vegetation development will be measured through Copernicus satellite data time series. Researchers will also refer to satellite data time series from the past 20 years to analyze drought stress. Together with soil information, the remote-sensing-based analyses will provide a valuable basis for estimating economic losses.

Regarding aquatic ecosystems, we will focus on the pressing issue of eutrophication, which refers to a surplus of nutrients in bodies of water and poses a serious risk to water quality worldwide, such as through the formation of toxic cyanobacteria or oxygen instability. It directly affects agricultural systems and can be greatly intensified by climate change.

In terms of adaptation options, we will provide data for assessing development trajectories of agricultural systems under conditions brought about by climate change, including the need for irrigation and nutrient regulation. Based on the compiled data set, it will also be possible to evaluate alternative cultivation and soil-management strategies with respect to their impact on soil functions. For aquatic systems, we will determine stress thresholds for adapting the management of aquatic ecosystems. Doing so will result in policy recommendations for decision-makers: suggestions for future land use and cultivation practices in scenarios where periods of drought occur more frequently.

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