Climate scenarios for the Alentejo show its deterioration desertification. The increase in temperature and decrease in rainfall, associated with climate change, are two key factors in this process. But the way the soil is explored has a fundamental role in the future of the Alentejo soil. Now, this area will be one of the case studies of a European project dedicated to land use and financed with 6.9 million euros by Horizonte Europa. The aim is to avoid worst case scenarios.
Called Mosaic – Combined land-use strategies to address climate change and biodiversity loss (something like Mosaic –Common land use strategies to combat climate change and land loss biodiversity), the project will study what drives producers and political actors to make poor land use choices, wants to create scenarios based on this analysis and promote policies that promote land uses capable of mitigating climate change and preventing loss of biodiversity.
“The project starts with a point: more and more people value the environment, but continue to take actions against it,” Francesca Poggi, a geographer at the Interdisciplinary Center for Social Sciences of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FCSH) from the Universidade Nova, explains to PÚBLICO de Lisboa, head of the project in Portugal. “Our idea is to start understanding why and contribute solutions.”
Problems like deforestation, which causes the release of carbon dioxide carbon (CO2) and intensive agriculture, where fertilizers and pesticides are used with impacts on biodiversity, accelerate phenomena that the European Union’s Environmental Pact wants to combat. “We need rapid and radical transformations,” the researcher surmises.
Francesca Poggi was invited to participate in this project by the Flanders Institute for Technological Research (VITO). VITO is an independent research organization located in Mol, in the province of Antwerp, Belgium, which aims to “accelerate the transition to a sustainable world”, according to web page. THE mosaic It is headed by Belgian researcher Nele D’haese, from VITO. In total, 20 institutions from nine European countries (Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) are part of the consortium, which last year applied for funding from Horizonte Europa and won. But only five countries will have case studies to get the desired mosaic of information.
In addition to Portugal, Belgium will explore the creation of climate-resilient areas, Denmark will devote itself to the problem of CO2 emissions and sequestration, Hungary wants to analyze the drought affecting the Danube region and how it is possible to restore the natural landscape and Switzerland will study the regions glaciers whose landscape is threatened. There will also be a sixth case study, which will be Europe itself as a whole.
The various cases represent realities European many different ones. With this, the initiative aims to “develop realistic scenarios and operational models to optimize the soil’s contribution to reduction climate change, adaptation and biodiversity goals (…) and at the same time reduce conflicts, explore synergies and manage risks,” the project’s application document states.
In the end, the mosaic it will make the scenarios it produced available in a digital environment accessible to everyone and will serve to promote a change in the behavior of those who play an important role in the future of the territory, from farmers to government entities. “If we change the paradigms of land use, we can change the current negative trends”, believes Francesca Poggi.
As a non-member of the European Union, Switzerland has pledged to contribute funds to the project, which will total €7.8 million over four and a half years of work, starting in September this year. “It’s a very relevant and very ambitious project,” says the geographer. In addition to FCSH, which will receive 247,112 euros, the Instituto Superior de Agronomia in Lisbon will also participate with 226,070 euros and the Regional Development Agency of Alentejo, in Évora, which will receive 70,672 euros. In total, Portugal will be left with 543,854 euros from Horizonte Europa, which is the current Research and Innovation Framework Program of the European Union.
In Alentejo, topics such as the emergence of greenhouses, intensive olive groves in the Alqueva region and solar parks will be studied. At the same time, the project proposes to start a dialogue with the various actors who have a role in spatial planning, in order to understand how land use choices are made.
The team will conduct investigations In connection quantitative and in-depth interviews with a more limited number of participants. At the heart of these talks will be landowners, farmers, tenants, entrepreneurs in the tourism sector and Renewable energyfrom the private sector side, and, in the public sector, municipalities, council technicians, politicians and the Alentejo Coordination and Regional Development Commission.
The new information will make it possible to develop future scenarios. “If, listening to the various actors, we realize that, because of the Common Agricultural Policy, the cultural context and the psychological aspects, there will not be significant changes in their behavior, we will have the scenario of what will happen in the future if we do nothing,” explains the geographer.
These scenarios are formulated with the help of geographic information about past land use. For this, the consortium will work with the European Union’s Copernicus program, which has detailed information on the ground.
“We chose Alentejo because it faces some of the challenges associated with climate change, such as corrosion and desertification,” explains Francesca Poggi. The dialogues will take place in the context of a policy workshop, an original idea of his mosaic. There will be one of these workshops in each of the case studies in the different countries. These labs will be “collaboration tools, spaces to develop, test and validate solutions,” he adds.
“We would like this project to develop a vision for the future and Alentejo to become a region of climate resilience and sustainability“, the geographer expects. “There are many funds from the European Union, we must create policies for the best use of these funds.”
One of the biggest challenges will be “creating a balanced zoning model,” says Francesca Poggi, who takes into account agricultural production that has a market and is important for farmers and local populations, the need for an energy transition, care of soil and maintenance of biological corridors.
The geographer gives examples. Replacing eucalyptus trees with solar parks makes sense, as eucalyptus trees damage the soil. But the replacement of cork oak forests, characteristic of this region, from solar parks it doesn’t make sense, Francesca Poggi defends. Or simpler questions: “Using the wrong agricultural crop for a given soil can have irreversible effects.”