Aicha Seifelislam, Universität Bayreuth

Aicha Seifelislam, Universität Bayreuth

The growth of the human population challenges natural resources in many parts of the world. In particular in Sub-Saharan Africa, natural resources could be the source of both economic growth and social conflicts. Thus, rational use and good management of natural resources are crucial for a sustainable livelihood. The framework of ecosystem services has been suggested to analyse the benefits humans obtain from well-functioning ecosystems and can be linked to the concept of natural resources. The concept of ecosystem services is evolving and presents itself an actual topic of research.

Quantifying ecosystem services and identifying possible causes of change can support management and decision-making. Wetlands in Africa, and especially in the arid and semi-arid regions, are a major source of ecosystem services as they provide the basic resources for many economic activities (Scoones, 1991). They are essential for flood management and groundwater recharge and provide food for humans and wildlife and habitat for wintering water birds. Their protection and sustainable use can therefore be considered as a key factor for the local food security and economic growth.

In this study, the resources water and soil and their role in providing the provisioning and regulating ecosystem services will be analysed. The goals of my doctoral thesis are (i) to analyse land use and land cover changes in the wetlands of the Khor Abu Habil and the surrounding agricultural area, (ii) to assess and map the provisioning and supporting ecosystem services related to soil and water and to (iii) develop scenarios of future land uses, related in particular to a possible declaration of a part of the study area as a RAMSAR 1 zone.

The study area is located at the northeastern end of a Sudanese wadi (alluvial fan) called Khor Abu Habil where the stream ends up in swampy depressions creating seasonal wetlands of major importance for the local ecosystem. These ephemeral wetlands are fed by seasonal wadi streams and remain for several months. The ecosystem in the study area has been so far hardly influenced by the modern infrastructure, however, previous studies have shown that changes are occurring due to the pressure of the nearby growing cities.

Based on available literature and the results of my master thesis in particular, I suggest a set of research questions and hypotheses that will help to understand the status quo and the evolution of the use of ecosystem services related to soil and water resources. The focus of the study will mostly be on the provisioning services and the regulatory services of both resources.

The goals of my doctoral thesis are (i) to analyse land use and land cover changes in the wetlands of the Khor Abu Habil and the surrounding agricultural area, (ii) to assess and map the ecosystem services related to soil and water and to (iii) develop scenarios of future land uses, related in particular to a possible declaration of a part of the study area as a RAMSAR zone.

Research questions

1. Which ecosystem services – related to the resources water and soil – are provided in the

study area? And how are they used?

2. How did the uses/availability of these ecosystem services evolve or change in the past decades?

3. What are the drivers of these changes (anthropogenic, climatic)?

4. What are the consequences of these changes for the local communities?

5. How will the use of these ecosystem services evolve in the future?

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