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Research Lines

Coping with climate change, variability and environmental risks

Climate change and increasing climate variability are happening and the least developing countries and rural populations are expected to be most affected (IPCC, 2007). Although scientific knowledge is available on climate trends, climate variability and the increases in the frequency of extreme weather events, predictions on future developments are difficult and controversial. Global and regional climate models, deliver information primarily for the macro and mesoscales. Coping with climatic variability and environmental risks demands though for local knowledge on the impacts of such trends and variability increases. Sound local information can contribute to human and environmental risk perceptions improving adaptation efforts and development of strategies for local populations.

The ITT is committed to integrate scales in its research projects, by transferring this information from global and macro scales to the watershed and local levels, where our research teams and students operate. The research topics under this research line include among other themes: i) downscaling of global and regional climate model outputs; ii) reducing the vulnerability of local populations to climate risks by raising adaptation capacity (e.g. coping with hydro-environmental extremes); iii) reducing the impacts on the resource base and food production systems; iv) creating baseline information and raising awareness of local communities; vi) demonstrating adaptation practices and technologies on the ground stabilizing and increasing productivities.

Improving resource use efficiency

Resource use efficiency is seen today as a global concern. We live in a world of scarcity where increasing populations and the increasing importance of new key players in the world economy (e.g. Brazil, India, and China) have induced a sharp rise in resource demands given a completely new dimension to the issue of scarce natural resources and management demands. Many of the key present technologies as well as many future developments are dependent on very scarce raw materials. The supply of essential productive factors and goods, like productive land or water is threaten by decreasing carrying capacities and risks due to climatic trend changes and variability increases.

The ITT is committed in this research line to work on methods for improving resource use efficiency at the watershed and local scales.  The research concept of the ITT linking research scales from the watershed to local environments sets up the proper framework on which convenient concepts of resource use efficiency can be implemented.

Maintaining ecosystem functions and services

Our planet hosts a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems which in turn exhibit a wide variety of functions. Ecosystem functioning is a prerequisite for human well-being as it enables the provision of goods and services. To maintain resilient ecosystems and thus the provision of ecosystem goods and services to humans, knowledge on ecosystem functioning is essential. However, for many ecosystems, relevant functions as well as interrelations between ecosystem functions and provision of goods or services are not sufficiently understood yet.

At ITT, interdisciplinary research combining the fields of water, soil, biodiversity, governance, land use and economics is carried out to develop methods for the identification of ecosystem functions and valuing of ecosystem goods and services, with the aim to find integrative technological and management solutions which on one hand protect ecosystem functioning and on the other hand ensure sustainable use of its goods and services.