STACCATO Kick-off: New research collaboration in Europe to work towards sustainable agriculture

In order to advance the sustainability in long-term development of agro-ecosystemsSTACCATO ("SusTainable AgriCultural ChAnge Through ecological engineering and Optimal use of natural resources") plans to quantify the sensitivity of ecosystem functions and the generated services to environmental pressures in representative agriculturally dominated landscapes in Europe.

The research consortium, combining the expertise of scientists from various fields of study from different European countries, will focus on investigating land use intensity at local as well as regional scale, the prevalent socio-economic backgrounds of farmers and stakeholders, and the potential impacts of future climate and land use change on biodiversity and the affiliated ecosystem functions and services.

Exploring possible case study sites in the Plovdiv region, Bulgaria; Credit: Anja Schmidt

During the kick-off meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria (20-22 April 2016) the scientists agreed on methodologies to be used for data acquisition in five pre-selected case study areas in Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. . Landscapes will comprise annual crops, like winter wheat or oilseed rape, and semi-natural grasslands.

"In particular we intend to investigate the interactions between annual crops and the surrounding landscapes including the sprawling urban areas, and the potentials of ecological engineering as a tool for eco-functional intensification." explains the project coordinator Prof. Dr. Josef Settele, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ.

"The overall objective is the elaboration and testing of generally applicable principles within the frame of ecological engineering, and to contribute to the loss of valuable soil and land for agricultural productivity." he adds.

Ecological Engineering is an emerging discipline, concerned with design, monitoring and construction of agro-ecosystems in order to maximize ecosystem services through exploiting natural regulation mechanisms instead of suppressing them.

As a core output, STACCATO aims at developing guidelines for optimizing ecosystem functions and services provision and their stabilization under future climate and land use change. Therefore, STACCATO will analyze the potential of ecological engineering as a tool for eco-functional intensification.