Institut für Evolution und Ökologie


NamTip - Understanding and Managing Desertification Tipping Points in Dryland Social-Ecological Systems – A Namibian Perspective

Despite ample theoretical evidence that ecosystems can exhibit alternative stable states it is still challenging to predict tipping points in real-world systems. In many cases, ecosystem state changes are still ‘ecological surprises’ that are observed and confirmed only retrospectively. The surprise results from our inability to understand mechanisms driving and maintaining tipping point behaviour.

Dryland ecosystems are an ideal case for studying tipping point behaviour, as these repeatedly have shown to be prone to catastrophic regime shifts, triggered by changes in external conditions (e.g. climatic extreme events, changes in land-use). A major type of catastrophic shifts in drylands is known as desertification; it typically involves a switch from vegetated to predominantly bare soil conditions, particularly involving losses in perennial vegetation. In order to be able to better manage the threat of tipping points that might occur under increased levels of climate and land-use change, it is essential to identify early-warning indicators of regime shifts, and to understand and link processes in dryland social-ecological systems (SES) affecting tipping point behaviour.

In NamTip we will study towards early detection and better management of desertification tipping points in Namibian savanna rangelands. We will combine field- and greenhouse experiments with space-for-time substitutions and re-analyses of historical regime-shifts from southern Africa.

After an initial 1-year phase in 2017/18, the the project has been granted funding by the BMBF and continues 2019 - 2023.

Pricpipal investigators of the Tübingen sub-project: Katja Tielbörger & Sara Heshmati


PD Dr. Anja Linstädter (Project PI), University of Cologne, Germany

Link to the NamTip Group website