Selected research highlights

Selected research highlights

deforestationIllegal activities and corruption have a major impact on land use changes and the related sustainability debate. Due to the hidden nature and the dangers of explicitly investigating this, too little attention is paid to this.

IVM’s Peter Verburg, together with colleagues from Arizona State University and the University of Alabama, sketches on the basis of a new conceptual model how data on this phenomenon can be collected and included in international models for quantifying the consequences for climate change and biodiversity. The research was published on 13 January in Nature Sustainability

The researchers indicate in the publication how important it is to map the role of illegal and corrupt practices on land use change by combining data from satellite images and land use activities in innovative ways.  Illegal activities range from deforestation for narco drugs in Costa Rica to the illegal mining of sand by Mafia groups in India and illegal transactions between property developers and politicians in the US. Everywhere in the world there are examples of illegal activities that have a major impact on land use. Scientists estimate that 40% of global deforestation is illegal and that in some countries, such as Indonesia and Brazil, this can go up to 80%. Failure to include these activities can have major consequences for quantifying the impact of land use on climate and biodiversity and shaping effective policies. The research is a call to the scientific community to take this topic seriously by using the new model.

skiresortEuropean scientists, including Kees van Ginkel (IVM/Deltares) and Wouter Botzen (IVM), recently completed a study of sudden changes in Europe’s economy and social fabric caused by climate change. They looked at ‘tipping points’. At the local level, socio-economic tipping points can be very painful but a new economic balance emerges on a broader scale. The results of the study were published in Environmental Research Letters.

Sometimes the climate can change suddenly. This is called a ‘tipping-point’. Until now, there has been no research looking at whether climate change could also cause major, sudden changes in the socio-economic system. These ‘tipping points’ are also seen in, for example, ecosystems: a gradual increase in water temperature or nutrients can result in a sudden explosion in algae growth. The article in Environmental Research Letters looks at three socio-economic tipping points: in winter tourism, agriculture and ‘strategic retreat’ in response to sea level rise.

dikeExtreme sea levels in Europe could rise by as much as one metre or more by the end of this century due to climate change. This poses significant challenges to safeguard coastal communities. In a recent article in Nature Communications IVM’s Philip Ward and co-authors present a comprehensive analysis of economically efficient protection scenarios along Europe’s coastlines during the present century. They find that at least 83% of flood damages in Europe could be avoided by elevating dykes in an economically efficient way along 23.7%-32.1% of Europe’s coastline, specifically where high value conurbations exist. The European mean benefit to cost ratio of the investments varies from 8.3 to 14.9 while at country level this ranges between 1.6 and 34.3, with higher efficiencies for a scenario with high-end greenhouse gas emissions and strong socio-economic growth.

newaveIVM is managing and coordinating the recently started NEWAVE project. NEWAVE is rooted in the conviction that the rising threats of future water crises and hydro-social challenges, present an urgent need to enhance the global capacity to reflect critically on the current water governance trajectory. In that light NEWAVE aims to:

  • Bring together an excellent trans-national and transdisciplinary network of water governance organisations;
  • Develop and implement a cutting-edge actionable research agenda on the key water governance priorities and insights for future directions;
  • Train a new generation of water governance early stage researchers and ensure that they have the trans- and interdisciplinary skills to make significant contributions to both the academic and extra-academic water governance world.

NEWAVE is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.