Wengen Workshop on Global Change Research: 2007 Edition

Climate Change and Desertification: Monitoring, Modelling and Forecasting                (Hotel Regina, Wengen, September 10-13, 2007)  

NEW:Click on the link below to access the Workshop Report 


This workshop is co-organized by the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission and the University of Geneva.

This workshop is co-sponsored by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), itself co-sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the Intergovernmental Commission for Oceanography of UNESCO (IOC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and by the GEO Secretariat.



Thirty years after the UN Conference on Desertification (UNCOD), which took place in Nairobi in September 1977, and some ten years after the ratification of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in December 1996, it was thought appropriate to step back and review (1) where the scientific community stood and what had been learned about desertification processes over the previous three decades, (2) the current state of the art in this and related fields (monitoring, modelling, integration of natural and social sciences, historical background, etc), and (3) where the affected communities were heading, given the high likelihood of significant climate changes in the coming decades.

An international workshop took place in Wengen, Switzerland, from 10 to 13 September 2007 to review the scientific issues involved, attempt a synthesis of the current state of the art in this field, and propose recommendations on priorities for further Research and Development (R&D) activities, as well as for a renewed and revived interaction between the scientific community and the wide range of policy makers, project managers and other actors concerned by these issues.

Particular attention was given to the interaction between climatic, environmental and human factors. The workshop focused on the scientific aspects of these issues, i.e., on the understanding of the processes at work, on the tools and techniques required to improve our knowledge, and on the best ways to communicate research findings to policy makers and other actors. This workshop was specifically organized for participants from academia and similar research organizations with an interest in developing and promoting state of the art scientific research activities in support of sustainable development policies in areas subject to desertification.

Desertification topics that were covered include, inter alia:

  • Monitoring: direct and indirect observables, in situ and space-based approaches, with particular attention to quantitative approaches and to assessing their accuracy and reliability
  • Modelling: key processes, essential variables, tools and techniques to integrate formal knowledge and measurements
  • Thematic issues: overgrazing, soil erosion by wind and water, drought and climate change, salinisation, relations with deforestation and loss of biodiversity, social and economic factors, integration of issues into a holistic view
  • Historical perspective and future projections: lessons from paleo-climatic reconstructions, forecasting desertification risks in the context of expected climate changes


Scientific Steering Committee

  • Mohamed Badraoui, Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte contre la Désertification, Rabat, Maroc
  • Martin Beniston, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • Andreas Brink, EC Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
  • Filippo Giorgi, ICTP, Trieste, Italy
  • Joachim Hill, University of Trier, Trier, Germany
  • Malcolm Hughes, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
  • Luca Montanarella, EC Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
  • Osvaldo E. Sala, Brown University, Providence (RI), USA
  • Robert (Bob) Scholes, CSIR, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Mary Seely, Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN), Windhoek, Namibia
  • David S. G. Thomas, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  • Michel M. Verstraete, EC Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy

Scientific programme

Sunday 9 September        
15:00-18:00 Registration      
Monday 10 September        
08:00-09:00 Registration      
09:00-09:30 Introduction and welcome   Michel Verstraete and Martin Beniston  
  Session 1: Desertification: The policy context   Chair:
Michel Verstraete
Stefan Sommer
09:30-09:45 Climate and Desertification: Partnering in Research   Ann Henderson-Sellers World Climate Research Programme
09:45-10:00 Environment - Development Imperatives for Climate Change and Desertification    Gemma Shepherd UNEP
10:00-10:15 Opening address   Alexia Massacand GEO Secretariat
10:15-10:30 GMES: Towards a European Earth Observation Capacity providing Information Services    Virginia Puzzolo GMES Bureau
10:30-11:00 Coffee break      
  Session 2: Desertification: The World's most desperate environmental problem?   Chair:
Osvaldo Sala
Eric Lambin
11:00-11:30 Carbon, climate and land degradation in Southern Africa   Bob Scholes CSIR
11:30-12:00 "Dryland Development Paradigm" - seeking necessary but sufficient complexity in desertification analyses   Mark Stafford-Smith CSIRO
12:00-12:30 Session discussion      
12:30-14:00 Lunch      
  Session 3: Desertification: Complex interactions between people, climate and the land   Chair:
Mary Seely
Rapporteur: Alexia Massacand
14:00-14:30 Coupled Human-Environment System Approaches to Desertification   Eric Lambin UCL
14:30-15:00 Regeneration or degeneration: Rangeland condition in postsocialist Central Asia   Roy Behnke Odessa Centre
15:00-16:00 Coffee break and poster session      
16:00-16:30 Spatial and temporal controls of carbon cycling in arid ecosystems   Osvaldo Sala Brown University
16:30-17:00 Desertification in China: Problems with Policies and Perceptions   Hong Jiang University of Hawaii
17:00-17:30 Using an integrated assessment framework with respect to climate change: an example of wheat potential in Africa under CC Scenarios   Steffen Fritz IIASA
17:30-18:00 Session discussion      
Tuesday 11 September        
  Session 4: Climate drivers of change in dry lands   Chair:
Ann Henderson-Sellers
Nadine Gobron
09:00-09:30 Interannual to multicentury variability in arid region hydroclimates   Malcolm Hughes University of Arizona
09:30-10:00 Regional climate models and applications to desertification   Martin Beniston University of Geneva
10:00-11:00 Coffee break and poster session      
11:00-11:30 Can we use ENSO climatic events to combat desertification ?    Milena Holmgren Wageningen University
 11:30-12:00 The impact of climate change on desertification   Anton Imeson University of Amsterdam
12:00-13:30 Lunch      
13:30-14:00 Climate change in the African Sahel   Alessandra Giannini IRI
14:00-14:30 Managing Climate Variability and its Impacts on Key Climate-Sensitive Sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa: the Experience from IRI   Pietro Ceccato IRI
14:30-15:00 Session discussion      
15:00-16:00 Coffee break and poster session      
  Session 5: Population drivers of change in dry lands   Chair:
Mark Stafford-Smith
Andreas Brink
16:00-16:30 Advances in desertification and climate change research: Are they accessible for application?   Mary Seely DRFN
16:30-17:00 LU-CDM, A Conceptual Model of Desertification   Ulf Hellden Lund University
17:00-17:30 TBD   Ibrahim Ali Ismail FAO/SWALIM
17:30-18:00 Session discussion      
Wednesday 12 September        
  Session 6: Monitoring changes in dry lands Chair:
Alessandra Giannini
Virginia Puzzolo
09:00-09:30 Imaging Desertification Syndromes from Space – Regional Assessment and Monitoring Strategies for a Global Problem   Joachim Hill University of Trier
09:30-10:00 Potential of long times series of FAPAR products for assessing and monitoring land surfaces changes   Nadine Gobron JRC/IES
10:00-11:00 Coffee break and poster session      
11:00-11:30 Estimation of Surface Albedo Increase During the Eighties Sahel Drought from Meteosat Observations   Yves Govaerts EUMETSAT
11:30-12:00 Temporal vs. spatial trend analysis in monitoring rangeland degradation. A matter of perspective?   Achim Roeder University of Trier
12:00-12:30 Session discussion      
12:30-14:00 Lunch      
14:00-19:00 Excursion to the Jungfraujoch      
Thursday 13 September        
  Session 7: Scenarios, mitigation, adapation and best practices Chair:
Anton Imeson

Joachim Hill

09:00-09:30 Environmental changes and local adaptation strategies in Eastern Saloum (Senegal)    Cheikh Mbow Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique
09:30-10:00 Estimating the Effects of Overgrazing on Land Use Change for the Jordan River Region   Jennifer Koch and Rudy Schaldach CESR
10:00-11:00 Coffee break and poster session      
11:00-11:30 Combating desertification, from monitoring to decision making, what are the odds? An implication from arid south   Mohamed S. Abdel Razik University of Alexandria
11:30-12:00 Vulnerability approach to Desertification and Climate change in Africa   Dorothy Amwata OSS
12:00-12:30 Session discussion      
12:30-14:00 Lunch      
  Session 8: Workshop conclusions Chair:
Bob Scholes
Mary Seely
14:00-16:00 Synthesis, recommendations, outcome (publications)      

Workshop Outcomes

- A formal report summarizing the rationale for the workshop, outlining the key points of the presentations, and recording the conclusions and recommendations of the meeting was generated and distributed in December 2007. A copy of this report is available below:

- A collection of 15 papers were subsequently prepared on the basis of some of the contributions to this workshop. These were peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in a special issue of the Global and Planetary Change journal. This special issue, published in December 2008, is accessible electronically from Elsevier's GPC web site


For scientific questions, please contact the Organizing Committee by sending an email to: wengen at

Workshop flyer

Wengen workshops: background information

For background information on past events, see: Wengen workshop series