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OASES - The use of wastewater for agro-forestry multipurpose systems in desert Oases

Oases are the main spots of human development in desert areas. Biotic and abiotic constraints together with human actions determine the fragile equilibrium of the ecosystem that is threatened by desertification.

The Algerian western oases are affected by several problems strictly connected with the new social and economical development. Actually, following the demographic growth of the last 10 years, the limits of natural resources are more evident. The new techniques of agricultural production (pivot, intensive agriculture) and soil management (water retention basins and dams), that have been introduced to increase the agriculture productivity, gradually are destroying the traditional organisation of the oasis and the fragile equilibrium between human needs and natural resources. The cyclical period of aridity appears more intensive and frequent as a consequence of global climate change. The simultaneous nature of biotic, abiotic and socio-economic factors is the cause of degradation of the oasis ecosystems.

Climate change and desertification represent two aspects of the same problem. Climate change refers to the effect of human-induced increase in concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, enhancing the natural greenhouse effect, causing, as a consequence, an increase of global temperatures. Desertification is often viewed as a widely dispersed effect of local environmental degradation due to unsustainable use of natural resources. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), together with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are the tools in place at international level to mainstream the Countries’ actions on mitigating the negative effects due to a mismanagement of natural resources. It has been largely recognized that forests are the natural resource where synergistic results could be achieved under the three Conventions.

The main goal of the project is to face the challenge from two different perspectives: first introducing a new water management inspired to the collection, recycle and reuse of urban wastewater and, second, propose a new agro-forestry strategies in order to stimulate both alternative economic chains and environmental restoration. It is important to note that agro-forestry never competes with human and agricultural needs of fresh water.

The project, is coordinated by the Department of Forest Environment and Resources of the University of Tuscia (Italy) and involves the Laboratory LRSBG of the University of Mascara (Algeria) and l’Institut National de Recherche Forestière (INRF) Algérien, with the financial support of the Italian Ministry of University and Research and the Italian Ministry of Development - Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE).

The project is realized at pilot scale in the Daira of Brézina (El Bahyad – Algeria), considered as representative of western oases problems.

The natural wastewater treatment (constructed wetlands) is designed to produce a quality-controlled effluent that is efficiently redirected into the agro-forestry plot. The forest specie selection maximizes both environmental and economical improvement through marginal land restoration, no-food products, and potential revenue from carbon sequestration.

The experimental multi-purpose agro-forestry system is designed to test different cultural thesis, which can be integrated in large scale, and to generate several environmental services as combat desertification, sequester atmospheric CO2, creates new habitats and conserve the biodiversity, maximise the water use efficiency. At the same time the experimental system would generate new sustainable local economies.

Progetti di Ricerca: Desertfor

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