CASTOR: Dutch Pleistocene landscapes in the Anthropocene

Castor is Latin for beaver. Beavers, like humans, transform land and water systems in river landscapes. CASTOR investigates realistic future landscape configurations, and pathways towards these futures. Pathways towards future landscapes are relevant because current well-intended management actions result in patchworks of interventions. Yet, fragmentation – spatial, temporal and in governance – constrains adaptive capacity, restricting responses to climate change and shifting societal demands. By offering actionable knowledge on future landscapes and pathways towards these, CASTOR supports regional adaptation strategies. Because landscape futures are shaped by natural physical processes in interaction with human interventions, CASTOR takes a learning approach – in living labs.

The sandy-soil regions of south and east Netherlands particularly demand analysis at the landscape level, because the high permeability of sandy soils compounds the many interdependencies between land and water users. Impacts of, for example, droughts are severely felt and require a comprehensive response.

We conceptualize the physical and human components of land and water use processes as complex adaptive systems and explore change dynamics. The non-linear behavior of these systems challenges decision-making. At the same time, the values society attributes to land and water systems are shifting, and stakeholders’ expectations for the future increasingly diverge. Adaptation planners need to know what interventions they can implement, when and where to achieve a climate-resilient living environment.

Working with stakeholders, CASTOR pursues nature-based approaches towards climate-resilient land and water systems. A key innovation is the combination of complex adaptive systems approaches with living labs initiated under the Lumbricus program (, in Dutch), which will be continued at the landscape level under the new Top Sector Alliance (TKI; KLIMAP, in Dutch). This offers excellent opportunities to integrate local and scientific knowledge with experimentation and planning. The CASTOR approach is transferable to other landscapes for which alternative futures can be foreseen under global change.

See also (Dutch)