WP6: Decision support tools and best practices for ecosystem management

The main objective of WP 6 was to take practical action to counteract desertification and land degradation and to implement a decision support system to choose the best practices for ecosystem management for increasing resilience of ecosystems to human impact and climate change. The specific objectives were: 1) to elaborate best practices to preserve ecosystem functioning and services, 2) to establish best practices to reduce the effects of human pressure on ecosystem, 3) to establish decision support tool for best practices in ecosystem management.

With the objective to contribute to sustainable use of forest ecosystems and resources and to conservation of biodiversity, two buffer zones have been established in degraded areas surrounding two protected areas in a sudanian zone in Senegal and a sahelian zone in Niger. This has been done in close collaboration with local people and forest technicians. Different studies on vegetation inventories have been done in order to determine the productivity of tree species, population structure and best practices on thresholds for harvesting tree species. In addition, different income-generating activities such as agroforestry, arboriculture, and beekeeping have been developed in order to mitigate population pressure in protected forests. Local people (men and women) are responsible for the management of restoration activities in the buffer zones. The restoration activities consist of tree planting and other income generating activities related to wildlife management, tourism activities, beekeeping and fishing.

One way of addressing the main objective was the development of two simulation models of simplified ecosystems from the Sudanian savanna and the Sahelian grassland. The two models were programmed very much the same way and they only differed in the selection of species presented to the user. A total of seven tree species, seven herbal species, and one crop species have been parameterized for use in the two models. The simulations can be based on weather files from 16, 7 , 8, and 11 meteorological stations in  Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Senegal, respectively. This makes it possible to use the model in all four UNDESERT countries. The models can be used to simulate growth and human utilization of the species, and model scenarios are tools for finding the optimal or sustainable utilization, thereby addressing the objectives of finding best practices. One publication describes gives an example and describes the model in detail (Padonou et al. 2015. Investigations of on farm seedling productivity of the rare and declining Caesalpinia bonduc in Benin (West Africa) by aid of simulation modelling. International Journal of Agronomy and Agricultural Research 6: 116-131).

In order to address the objective of the decision support tool a computer based decision support system (DSS) has been programmed. This program has been designed to let the user extract information from all UNDESERT work packages, information that can help the user to take decisions on ecosystem management. The DSS includes the modules “Information on vegetation”, “Degradation”, “Restoration”, “Use value of plants”, “Climate change”, Plant growth modeling”, “Carbon sequestration”, and “Land use”, and many of these modules integrates results from different work packages. The system has been designed having different questions or question series that may be asked be people dealing with ecosystem management in mind. By helping answering these questions it is believed that the UNDESERT DSS will be a strong tool in the hands of ecosystem managers or people involved in development projects in West Africa. The DSS can be regarded an UNDESERT dissemination tool. The DSS is available from the UNDESERT homepage.


works to create an improved understanding of the effects of desertification and degradation processes in West Africa and to develop and implement best practices, such as carbon forestry, in close collaboration between scientists and local communities.

Financed by EU-FP7.