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SUN — Result In Brief

Project ID: 31685
Funded under: FP6-INCO
Country: Denmark

SUNrise on west Africa's natural beauty

An EU-funded project, SUN, gathered local and international expertise to create a framework for vegetation management in west Africa. Improved interaction between scientists and stakeholders promises to prevent further deterioration of valuable ecosystems.
SUNrise on west Africa's natural beauty
The natural vegetation of semi-arid west Africa is of immense importance to local ecosystems as well as the livelihood of the local population. Unfortunately, poor management and unsustainable use is bringing about rapid deterioration of the vegetation.

To reverse this worrying trend of destruction of a crucially important resource, a major EU-funded project was set up involving institutions from across Europe and west Africa. The 'Tools for management and sustainable use of natural vegetation in West Africa' (SUN) project aimed to bridge the gap between global initiatives, scientific information and the realities of life in Africa where practical solutions are required.

SUN aimed to develop new management tools and solid management strategy to improve sustainable use of natural vegetation. The scientists combined vegetation dynamics and causal factors as well as economic instruments and policies to come up with a recipe for sustainable economic growth.

To study human impact on phytodiversity, models were constructed using data from maps of vegetation from land use and protected areas. Overall, the scientists worked to understand vegetation dynamics and the factors that bring this about to identify and protect vulnerable areas and habitats.

The scientists derived maps that show the changes in vegetation from 1982 to 2008 from indices subject to evaluation. Growing season peak time, greenness, length of season and shape of the phenological profile were used to correlate plant changes with rainfall and temperature patterns.

A comprehensive database at houses the phytosociological and tree (dendrometric) data as well as lists of flora. Adapted to offline and therefore field use where the Internet may be slow, the vegetation data network allows upload of data sets for registered users.

For users, the SUN map server facilitates the use of spatial information in SUN areas in west Africa to input into geographic information systems (GIS) for further processing. The SUN countries folder contains a vast range of data – from cities and villages to vegetation, geology and soils, as well as administrative boundaries.

SUN has developed a major information platform for sustainable vegetation management in west Africa. The achievements of the SUN project will be fortified by data input from other projects. One key example is that the SUN map server will be updated regularly with data collected from the follow-on Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) initiative 'Understanding and combating desertification to mitigate its impact on ecosystem services' (Undesert).

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