Integrative product-oriented structure
During its time of existence since 2001, BIOTA AFRICA developed a wide range of products. A number of these are major contributions to the understanding of the change of biodiversity on the African continent. These newly developed insights are driving the program for the next phase. Below these innovative views and their consequences for the future of the program elements will be presented.
For the specific needs of the next phase, a new internal structure of the project was deemed necessary, also considering potential exit strategies for the long-term use of the infrastructure, data skills and products created by BIOTA Southern Africa. Therefore, the traditional structures, e.g. the disciplinary subprojects, are no longer used for structuring the project.
The rationale for this step will be explained and the three new structural dimensions of the matrix for BIOTA Southern Africa will be introduced. These are:
Workpackages generate user-oriented products
BIOTA Southern Africa decided to develop a structure, which shall support the integrated generation of user-oriented products. The new structure consists of 28 workpackages founded by the BMBF and 11 projects funded by the DS&T. Each of the workpackages integrate various disciplinary and interdisciplinary activities, always defined by one or several joint products, generated for one or several specific users. The strong interest in respective products has been expressed explicitly in letters of support.
Existing structures based on individual disciplines will be maintained where appropriate, however, the project structure reflect the product-oriented approach.
Workpackages are integrated at levels of increasing complexity along the flux of information
The different workpackages generate quite different types of products, aiming at very different end-users. Some of the products can be developed by single workpackages. Most of the other products address a higher level of complexity, which requires the use of the products of one or several of the other workpackages. The latter situation can amount to a cascade of products of several sequential workpackages.
This product oriented integration is reflected in the overall structure of the entire project: Those activities that generate products within one individual workpackage are conveniently described in this individual workpackage. However, for all projects interacting with regards to transfer of data and products, interfaces need to be defined and formulated. This is done along a flux of information which flows from basic levels like assessments and observations through various steps of analysis to strongly integrated levels of higher complexity.
From an overarching viewpoint this integration can be described as a flow of information from upstream to downstream positions. Along this stream the following levels can be recognized:
- Understanding the drivers of change
- Assessing the current state and monitoring the intensity and direction of change of biodiversity
- Assessing and monitoring with special regard to land use changes and their impact
- Understanding the process and mechanisms by which change is taking place and integrating the process elements within models which give predictive capacity
- Developing tools and schemes for interventions (restoration, conservation, sustainable management)
- Transformation, decision support, learning partnerships and capacity development
In more detail, these levels follow the rational given below:
A Drivers of change
At the basis of each analysis of change within a system one needs to know about the past, present and future strength and direction of important drivers which control this change. With regard to the change of biodiversity within the study region, land use, soil quality and climate change are obviously of highest importance. Within the application for phase III, only important changes with regards to climate and soil quality are turned into three workpackages. The other important driver, land use - because of its complexity and interactive and bi-directional nature - is placed as a full separate level C.
B Monitoring of Change
At the core of each scientific understanding of the change of biodiversity, the measurement and assessment of the change of biodiversity itself, is needed. At this level, six workpackages are established: four taxon-specific workpackages will generate a variety of products, partly assessing current diversity, partly analyzing time series with regards to speed and direction of change; two workpackages analyse change of vegetation in space.
C Land use, Impact and Value
Land use history and recent changes of land use are the most important drivers of the change of biodiversity in most regions along the transects of BIOTA Southern Africa. Nevertheless, land use is not treated under level A because land use is not only a driver but land use itself is also controlled by a variety of factors, including natural resources, socio-economic drivers, development of agriculture and political development. Land use resulted in severe degradation in many sensitive ecosystems.
D Process Analysis
An understanding of the process of change needs to be established with regards to a number of system compartments, using very different scientific approaches. While some of the seven workpackages aim at an understanding of the processes and mechanisms generated by soil properties, plant functional types and fragmentation, other workpackages will integrate such analysis in mechanistic models. All these workpackages together create a capacity to make robust assumptions on the further development of biodiversity taking into account different scenarios of land use and other factors. Some of the projects already point towards the subsequent level E.
E Interventions and Restoration
Based on such understanding of the systems (level A to D), a scientific assessment of the consequences, the chances and the risks of various interventions becomes possible. A number of meaningful interventions is identified in the fields of prevention, restoration, conservation and sustainable management, partly already integrated in a decision support system and thereby again demarcating a transition to level F.
F Transformation and Capacity Development
The new sub-title chose for the BIOTA AFRICA project is: Scientific support for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Such support can only be accomplished by active transformation of scientific results for decision makers. For workpackages ain at different stakeholder groups and use different methods (Para-ecologist programme, learning-partnerships, governance patterns, decision and management support system). However, in addition to these targeted activities, many of the other workpackages have already integrated the relevant end users during their planning phases.