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ICARDA scientist attends First World Conference on Soil and Water Conservation

Jun 25,2017

ICARDA scientist Dr. Stefan Strohmeier presented the Center’s achievements on restoring degraded rangelands by optimizing mechanized micro water harvesting techniques at the First World Conference on Soil and Water Conservation under Global Change (CONSOWA).

The event, bringing together more than 250 participants from 36 countries, was held on 12-16 June 2017 in Lleida, Spain.

Dr. Strohmeier’s research is conducted within Jordan’s rangelands, the Badia, which has become severely degraded during recent decades due to an influx of about 1.8 million sheep, goats and camels that Iraqi refugees brought to Jordan during the Gulf War in 1990. Moreover, border restrictions throughout the Middle East have affected the nomadic lifestyle of Bedouins communities, causing a sedentary lifestyle and increasing pressure on rangeland areas.

In order to optimize micro water harvesting and the revegetation of degraded rangeland ecosystems, ICARDA has been promoting a special Vallerani plow, among other techniques, which is composed of a reversible mould board and deep ripper. The mould board creates a micro basin to mainly collect water, but also seeds, topsoil and organic material; while the ripper digs an underground split furrow for better water infiltration and storage. The pits that are created serve as out-planting habitats for native shrub species, thus helping to revegetate and restore degraded Badia areas.

The Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Model (RHEM) has been used to simulate runoff and erosion for the interspacing between the water harvesting structures, helping to optimize the implementation design for revegetation. The model is forced through a 300-year rainfall time series generated by the climate generator CLIGEN, and thus can investigate long-term hydrological behavior and predict the probability of certain events.

A risk assessment approach will be further developed that considers variable thresholds of surface water yields, both minimum and maximum, as well as erosion and consequential sediment accumulation to better understand the impacts of the micro-WH pits on the surrounding ecosystem. This will support the decision making process for targeted Badia restoration efforts – towards a multi-criteria tool that trades-off shrub growth, water retention, soil conservation and biodiversity.

CONSOWA was organized jointly by the World Association for Soil and Water Conservation (WASWAC), the European Society for Soil Conservation, the International Union of Soil Science, the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), the International Erosion Control Association (IECA) and the World Association for Sedimentation and Erosion Research (WASER), in parallel with the VIII National Symposium on Soil Degradation and Restoration Control (SECS).

The event marks the first time that key world scientific organizations promoting the wise and sustainable use, management and conservation of soil and water have gathered to analyze present and future scenarios influenced by global changes, said Prof. Dr. Ildefonso Pla Sentís, President of the International Soil Conservation Organization (ISCO).

The main aspects of the five-day event were to promote increased collaboration focusing on research and activities to counteract the negative effects of climate change on soil and water.