Authors: Gudrun Schwilch, Matteo Jucker Riva and Hanspeter Liniger
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: Schwilch, G. et al. (2016) Comprehensive guidelines for natural resource managers. CASCADE Project Deliverable 7.3


Development of the guidelines

The idea to develop such guidelines was based on earlier experience of one of the CASCADE partners (UNIBE-CDE, Switzerland) of deducting principles of sustainable land management (SLM) from documented SLM practices (technologies and approaches). The premise is that these SLM practices are actually applied in the field and thus reflect real life experience and innovative as well as traditional knowledge. Books containing such principles of SLM include the

  • ‘Desire for Greener Land’ (Schwilch, Hessel and Verzandvoort, 2012) with a focus on global drylands,
  • and other books from the WOCAT network, such as the Water Harvesting Book (Mekdaschi Studer and Liniger, 2013),
  • the ‘SLM in Practice - Guidelines and Best Practices for Sub-Saharan Africa’ (Liniger et al., 2011)
  • and their forerunner ‘Where the Land is Greener’ (Liniger and Critchley, 2007).

However, in order to serve land managers, these books are too ‘heavy’, literally and figuratively. We thus decided to choose a different approach and translate the findings from the documented practices (and other sources, see below) into recommendations understandable to land managers.

Our participatory assessment of the land management practices implemented in the study sites, together with a specific investigation on the resilience of the ecosystems, allowed us to identify key messages that we deemed important for stakeholders. The plan was to produce three booklets on three prevailing Mediterranean dryland contexts found in the CASCADE study sites, which represent three typical socio-environmental challenges:

  • the forest fire context,
  • the overgrazing context and the
  • land abandonment context.

The overall idea was presented to the CASCADE partners in May 2015 during the plenary meeting in Crete. In the following year, the data was collected from the different sources (see ‘source of knowledge’ below) and the principles and recommendations were developed for the three contexts. A table with 3-7 principles for each context, their related recommendations as well as uncertainties regarding these issues was then presented to the CASCADE partners in May 16 during the plenary meeting in Ispra. Group work during the meeting served to accept, reject or modify each item of the table and to make sure all the project’s expertise was brought together in a constructive manner. Additional input was sought from land management experts and colleagues within partner UNIBE-CDE (Switzerland). Based on this improved version, draft guidelines were elaborated with help from partner MEDES (Italy) regarding visualization and language. The results are three easy-to-read and visually attractive 8-12 page booklets.

Content of the guidelines

Each booklet has a number of ecological principles and related land management recommendations, which are subsequently explained in short and simple text and illustrated with photographs.

The principles should be understood as ecological principles: i.e. they explain or highlight a crucial ecological process that is relevant for the resilience of the ecosystem, and relate it with the socio-ecological dimension. The recommendations for management are derived from these principles and are presented in a bullet list of 1-5 recommendations.

Wherever possible, links are made to documented SLM technologies and approaches in order to explain the recommendation, illustrate it with an example or provide concrete options for land managers. At the end of each section (each principle), these management options are specifically listed. It has to be noted that these listed options for SLM practices are not meant to be complete, but only reflect the most interesting, practical or useful practices documented within the CASCADE project, which are, however, as representative for Mediterranean drylands as possible.

The last page of each booklet contains some information about the CASCADE project and the authors.

We decided to put the technical information and implementation approaches into an annex rather than in the main text of the booklets, in order not to overload the text. But all the practices are referred to in the booklets, even with hyperlinks to online WOCAT database in case of e-reading. Nevertheless, the printed version has annexes to each booklet with a standardized 4-page summary of the documented SLM technologies and approaches.

Sources of knowledge

The first source of knowledge for developing the guidelines was the documented SLM technologies and approaches from within the CASCADE project and study sites (see »Documented and evaluated natural resource management practices). The 21 technologies and 4 approaches documented from the study sites can be accessed on »»WOCAT SLM Technologies and »»WOCAT SLM Approaches.

Secondly, the results from the resilience assessment tool developed for CASCADE and applied in all the case study sites, provided detailed knowledge about the socio-ecological system and the role of land management (see »A method for resilience assessment). The assessment revealed important information to understand the resilience of the socio-ecological system at the scale at which management is implemented, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the land management in coping with the disturbances that occur in the area. Scientific terms and concepts related with resilience are difficult to translate into non-specialist language, thus we chose to identify practical ecological principles and recommendations that exemplify how everyday land management can deal with disturbances. This way, we were able to relate resilience to land managers' experience. We tried to show how land management practices can prevent shifts of ecosystems, what would be the threshold or early warning sign, and how land management can mitigate degradation or foster the recovery.

Thirdly, all the CASCADE case study researchers provided written suggestions on how land users and land managers could improve the resilience of the land management system(s) that were assessed, using as much as possible the information they collected through the application of the resilience assessment tool. Local case study and stakeholder knowledge was also included through extensive field work conducted for the participatory assessments of »Documented and evaluated natural resource management practices and»A method for resilience assessment. Finally, the consulted local experts from the study sites all agreed to be acknowledged by name on the guidelines, which confirms their agreement with the results.

Fourthly, results of other CASCADE research was used, in particular deliverables and scientific papers. Deliverables were consulted e.g. for drivers, thresholds or early warning signals. These were namely

»Drivers of change in the study sites
»The role of increasing environmental pressure in triggering sudden shifts
»Restoration potential for preventing and reversing regime shifts

The following scientific papers resulting from CASCADE or from related research of CASCADE partners were also included:

  • Mayor, A., Valdecantos A., Vallejo V.R., Keizer J.J., Bloem, J., Baeza J., González-Pelayo O., Machado A.I., de Ruiter P.C. 2016. Fire-induced pine woodland to shrubland transitions in Southern Europe may promote shifts in soil fertility. Science of The Total Environment.
  • Baeza, M. J. J., Valdecantos, A., Alloza, J. and Vallejo, V. R. R. 2007. Human disturbance and environmental factors as drivers of long-term post-fire regeneration patterns in Mediterranean forests. Journal of Vegetation Science, 18(2), 243
  • Martins, M. a. S., Machado, A. I., Serpa, D., Prats, S. a., Faria, S. R., Varela, M. E. T., … Keizer, J. J. 2013. Runoff and inter-rill erosion in a Maritime Pine and a Eucalypt plantation following wildfire and terracing in north-central Portugal. Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics, 61(4), 261–268.

Dissemination of the guidelines

All the booklets have been translated into the languages at the study sites (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Greek), and then distributed to the stakeholders through the local CASCADE researchers. In preparation for their final stakeholder workshop and policy event at the study site, the local researchers prioritized the most relevant recommendations from the guidelines and then presented and discussed these with the stakeholders.

»Multi-scale evaluation with policy makers describes the participatory multi-scale evaluation process used to evaluate scenarios and management options. It also includes information on stakeholder engagement and dissemination in each study site, their policy recommendations and upscaling approaches developed in CASCADE.

The guidelines were also presented at the international policy workshop held in Matera (Southern Italy) in February 2017, where policy stakeholders from the study site countries as well as from the European level participated.

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