Regional Climate Change:
Disentangling the Role of Land Use and Water Management
The DETECT Collaborative Research Centre is hosted at the University of Bonn and funded as CRC1502 by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Participating institutions are: Research Centre (FZ) Jülich, Universities of Cologne and Göttingen and the German Weather Service (DWD).
DETECT’s research hypothesis:
At the global scale, no doubt, increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide due to human activities constitute the main drivers of climate change, with other greenhouse gases and aerosols also affecting the climate. All this is presumed to have led, and still continues to leading to an intensification of the water cycle, with more intense rainfall and associated flooding, and more intense and frequent droughts and other consequences. However, at the regional scale, also other pathways of human actions have recently become recognized as important to consider.
Humans have – through decades of land-use change and intensified water use and management –caused persistent modifications in the coupled water and energy cycles of land and atmosphere.
Via testing this central hypothesis, the CRC’s aim is to improve the understanding of regional climate change beyond greenhouse gas forcing. DETECT brings together people from meteorology, hydrology, geodesy, remote sensing, computer science, plant sciences, economics and agricultural science with a unique network of about 100 scientists. Ultimately, DETECT aims at developing evidence-based sustainability criteria for the future land and water use interventions (“climate-smart land use”), such as e.g. large-scale transitions in agricultural systems.
To address challenges related to the complex interaction of processes involved in the land and water management, and how they eventually contribute to regional climate change, DETECT has developed more than twenty projects structured in four clusters.
DETECT’s unique research approach:
In addition to the well-known scenarios for CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from the world climate reports, DETECT explicitly considers how changes in land use and water management by humans, such as irrigation, modify the local and regional water, energy and carbon cycles in various complex ways through various land surface feedbacks.
Compared to greenhouse gases and natural variability, these human-induced changes contribute substantially to observed trends in water storage and fluxes at regional scales, yet the causal pathways and current magnitude of effects needs to be understood to assess future trajectories of the water cycle and, e.g. the effect of future droughts, and to ultimately design adequate policy measures for climate-smart land use.
In its current first research phase, DETECT targets at testing the central hypothesis for Europe, constituting a single region of continental size (Euro-CORDEX region) that was fundamentally reshaped by land use changes in the past, shows trends of urbanization and homogenous agricultural landscapes. To this end, we develop ensemble-based regional reanalyses of the water and energy cycle, incorporating various satellite and terrestrial data sets and consistent with global reanalyses, and we simulate past and future states of the regional climate under different scenarios that are consistent with global IPCC pathways and that enable us to simulate different models of land use governance and management.
In future research phases the transferability of this approach will be evaluated for regions with different environmental conditions.
Details about the individual CRC1502-DETECT research projects can be found here.