The OPTIMASS (Options for sustainable geo-biosphere feedback management in savanna systems under regional and global change) project is a three-year collaborative, inter- and trans disciplinary German-Namibian research project, funded by the BMBF (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research). It is part of the SPACES (Science Partnerships for the Assessment of Complex Earth System Processes) program initiated by the BMBF.
OPTIMASS aims at providing guidelines and strategies for sustainable use, stabilisation and restoration of ecosystem services in Namibian savannas, focusing on geo-biosphere feedbacks.
The OPTIMASS project was launched with a first workshop in November 2014, during which SASSCAL’s recently established OADC (Open Access Data Centre) already gave a presentation on its vision and objectives.
The final OPTIMASS workshop took place on 20 July 2017, in Windhoek, and was opened by the coordinators of the project, Prof Dr Florian Jeltsch, from the University of Potsdam, Dr Morgan Hauptfleisch, from the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Dr Oliver Dilly from the DLR Porject Management Agency.
During the workshop, the researchers and students from all sub-projects of OPTIMASS presented the results of their research. These included researchers and students from the Free University of Berlin, The University of Potsdam, the University of Namibia (UNAM), the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, the Institute of Social-Ecological Research and NUST.
During the OPTIMASS workshop, researchers presented results that could directly impact the sustainable management of savannah rangelands:
- Undeniably, one of the most significant results of the OPTIMASS project has been the contribution to capacity building in Namibia. Around 25 Master studies and 7 PhD studies are either completed or close to completion.
- Research demonstrated the factors that influence the distribution of bush-encroaching species, as opposed to palatable grassland species, the effect of different mammals and even macropores on the soil and the savanna ecosystem, the impacts of different farming practices on the savanna ecosystem, and even how these impacts and effects can be eloquently modelled to advise land practitioners.
Peter Erb, the National Director from the SASSCAL National Node in Namibia, also gave a presentation towards the end of the workshop, exploring synergies between SASSCAL and the OPTIMASS project. A lot of valuable research data and information, coming out of the OPTIMASS project, could be hosted and made available via SASSCAL’s OADC and the online portal it is putting in place for SASSCAL’s research portfolio.