Land users and soil and water conservation (SWC) specialists have a wealth of know-how related to land management, improvement of soil fertility, and protection of soil resources. Most of this valuable knowledge, however, is simply not evaluated and documented - or if it is, then it remains poorly accessible, and comparison of different types of experience is difficult.
This SWC knowledge therefore remains a local, individual resource, unavailable to others working in similar areas and seeking to accomplish similar tasks. This is one of the reasons why soil degradation persists, despite decades of efforts and high investments throughout the world.
In this context, WOCAT was founded 1992 as a global network of SWC specialists. It also emerged that there has been a heavy focus on documenting soil degradation in the past, but presentation of SWC / sustainable land management practices – which is much more complicated – had not yet been undertaken in a consistent way. WOCAT developed a standardised and comprehensive methodology for documentation and evaluation of SWC practices.
The WOCAT methodology was originally designed to focus mainly on soil erosion and fertility decline in erosion-prone areas. However, during development and application of the methodology, other land degradation types were included. Today, WOCAT also includes other aspects of the land: soil, water, vegetation and animals.
WOCAT has developed an impressive database with currently almost 500 case studies on Technologies (the activities implemented in the field) and over 200 Approaches (the enabling environment required to implement the technologies successfully), as well as geographic data.
Early 2007 WOCAT published an attractive book with a sample set of 42 technologies and 27 approaches from all over the world. This book has served as a template for various national and regional overview books (see link). Subsequently, WOCAT case studies from the on-line WOCAT database have been entered in Google Earth; the KMZ file has been posted on the Google Earth Community Forum under the Environment and Convervation category.
Since its initiation there has been a shift from data collection per se to evaluation and monitoring, as well as to training and research.
ISRIC has been strongly involved in the project since the beginning and is a member of the WOCAT Management Group.
The EU/FP6-funded DESIRE project (2007-2012) aimed to establish promising alternative land use and management conservation strategies in eightteen degradation and desertification hotspots around the world, based on a close participation of scientists with local stakeholder groups.
This integrative participatory approach ensures the acceptability and feasibility of conservation techniques, as well as a sound scientific basis for the effectiveness at various scales. DESIRE employs a bottom up approach, as favoured by the UNCCD:
- degradation and desertification hotspots and stakeholder groups have been identified in all countries surrounding the Mediterranean, and in 6 external nations facing similar environmental problems,
- desertification indicator sets will be defined in a participatory approach and a harmonized information system will be constructed to organize socio-economic and geo-information data,
- new and existing conservation strategies will be defined with the stakeholder communities;
- these strategies will be implemented in the field, and monitored and modeled to quantify their effectiveness at various scales,
- the results will be extrapolated using indicator sets, geo-information data, and integrated modeling systems combining socio-economic and environmental aspects, and
- finally the results will be translated to a series of practical guidelines for good agricultural practices and environmental management, which will be disseminated to practitioners, agricultural extensionists, governmental authorities, policy makers, NGOs, land users, land owners, and local communities.
The project is coordinated by Alterra in Wageningen. ISRIC is responsible for Work Block 1 (WB1): Environmental and socio-economical context, which consists of:
- a review of existing information sources with relevance to the land degradation problems and their solutions in the study areas - an overview of desertification problems in the study countries (map & report)
- identified drivers of land degradation with specific reference to the study areas at field, local and policy level - an inventory of relevant stakeholders and
- development of a set of sustainability goals ISRIC is also a major contributor to WB3: Defining potential prevention and mitigation strategies, where WOCAT plays an important role as well.
ISRIC is also a major contributor to WB3: Defining potential prevention and mitigation strategies, where WOCAT plays an important role as well.
The EU-FP7 project called RECARE (2013-2018) aims to develop effective prevention, remediation and restoration measures using an innovative transdisciplinary-approach. It will actively integrate and advance knowledge of stakeholders and scientists in 17 case studies, covering a-range of soil threats in different bio-physical and socio-economic environments across Europe.
The case studies will consider/evaluate:
- the current state of degradation and conservation using a new methodology, based on the WOCAT-mapping procedure,
- impacts of degradation and conservation on soil functions and ecosystem services. These will be quantified in a harmonized, spatially explicit way, accounting for costs and benefits, and possible trade-offs,
- prevention, remediation-and restoration measures, selected and implemented by stakeholders.
- the applicability and impact of these measures at the European level using a new integrated biophysical and socio-economic model.
National and EU policies will be reviewed and compared to identify potential (in)coherence, contradictions and synergies. Policy messages will be formulated based on the case study results and their integration at European level.
A comprehensive dissemination and communication strategy, including a web-based Dissemination-and Communication Hub, will accompany the other activities to ensure that project results are disseminated to a variety of-stakeholders at the right time and in the appropriate formats.
ISRIC is coordinating Work Package 5, the focus of which is on “identification and selection of appropriate mitigation and prevention measures”.
The RECARE project is coordinated by Wageningen UR (Soil Physics & Land Management Department) and brings together 28 partners from 17 European countries.