Future Proof Grasslands

Project team

Dr Cormac Walsh


Management Chair

Prof. Dr. Bernd Siebenhüner


Birgit Schelenz

+49 441 798-4384  

Future Proof Grasslands

Project description

Object of research

Grassland characterises the cultural landscape in the northwest German coastal region. Grassland areas fulfil a variety of ecosystem services, ranging from the provision of indigenous fodder for livestock farming to contributions on species, water and climate protection and the provision of a cultural landscape that serves society both as a habitat and for leisure and recreation. In particular, the ecosystem functions of grassland in the north-west German coastal region form the basis for diverse, important ecosystem services in the agricultural landscape. These ecosystem functions and services and the associated forms of utilisation are acutely endangered by climate change. Climate change is already affecting all regions of the world in a variety of ways. This poses considerable risks for many ecosystems and their services. This also affects north-west Germany.

Current climate modelling projects higher winter precipitation, more pronounced droughts in summer, more frequent heavy rainfall and a rise in sea levels for this region. These changes pose new challenges for coastal protection and inland water management. As the grassland systems that characterise the landscape have developed together with the inland drainage system along the North Sea coast of Lower Saxony, which has been created over centuries, the preservation of their diverse services depends largely on the future development of water management. The prevailing paradigm, which focuses on the removal of precipitation water, is not suitable for maintaining the multifunctionality of grasslands under the conditions of climate change in the future. The extent of the impact of dry periods on grassland vegetation and its productivity became clear in 2018, 2019 and 2020, particularly in intensively utilised grassland in north-west Germany, and poses new problems and challenges for the target regions of the East Friesland and Wesermarsch project applied for here.

Given this background, the question arises of a transformation of the inland drainage system towards an integrated water management system which, in addition to drainage in the event of excess water, also takes into account forward-looking water retention to avoid water shortages during future periods of increasing drought. To this end, it is necessary to improve water retention in the entire catchment area and to develop comprehensive concepts for the landscape water balance at the level of the drainage association. A particular challenge here is to involve all affected groups in the future design of integrated water management. Previous projects on climate adaptation in the northwest German coastal region have focussed on strategies for climate-adapted drainage management that are geared towards adapting to higher winter precipitation and sea level rise.

Method / Approach

The "Future Proof Grasslands" (FPG) project therefore addresses a gap in science and practice by developing a new 'future-proof' approach for the north-west German coastal regions to adapt water management to more frequent periods of drought in the future through temporary water retention. This should enable a transformation of water management in the north-west German coastal region, which is geared towards a year-round balance in the water balance and increases the resilience of grassland systems and their ecosystem functions and services in climate change. Particular attention will be paid to involving stakeholders in the region in all phases of the project. The FPG project is thus making an important contribution to the development of climate-adapted, integrated water management in the north-west German coastal region.


Project Duration



The project is funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture.


  • Grünlandzentrum Niedersachsen / Bremen e.V..
  • Jade University of Applied Sciences Wilhelmshaven
  • Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute
  • The University Göttingen
  • Landesamt für Bergbau, Energie und Geologie
  • Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences
(Changed: 06 Mar 2024)  | 
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