WIMEK's Grand Challenge II: Managing our future biosphere

Developing strategies for the sustainable use of soil, water, atmosphere, biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes.

Human activities are threatening the natural basis of our planet by disturbing the global atmospheric and water cycles and polluting soil, water and atmosphere, resulting in degradation of biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes. These problems cross regional and national borders and tend to propagate in time. Solving these complex problems is challenging because the underlying environmental and socio-economic processes and their systemic interactions are poorly understood. The services provided by natural systems are often inadequately appreciated.

The main focus of WIMEK’s research lies on understanding the interconnected physical, chemical, biological and social processes across scales to help to preserve and restore soil, water and air quality, biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes.

This entails the development of models and scenarios that contribute to potential solutions for environmental issues at local, regional and/or global scale at different timescales.

WIMEK’s research aims at co-creating sustainable solutions by:

  • analysing the interaction and feedbacks between the pedosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere, such as the hydrological cycle, the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle
  • analysing how human activities affect our soil, water bodies and atmosphere and what the impacts are on society
  • analysing ecosystem services and biodiversity (e.g. quantification and valuation of ecosystem functions and services)
  • studying the impacts of land use, land and water management on the quality of soil and water systems (agro-ecosystems and natural ecosystems) that are essential for addressing global societal challenges of sufficient and clean water resources, food security, sustainable land management, and climate adaptation
  • developing evidence-based design and responsive land use planning approaches for urban-rural transformations that are important to support climate adaptation, the energy transition, the agricultural transition (towards a circular agriculture) and urbanization

Our approach in studying global environmental challenges also includes the social sciences, addressing issues such as equitable distribution of benefits, dispossession, discrimination, and social vulnerability. We link our research to capacity building, community action and policy initiatives aiming to generate a broad impact on society. Moreover, we include stakeholders more often in the whole research process more often, by co-creating research proposals and research programmes.