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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys


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RuralFutures - Strategies towards multifunctional, biodiverse and sustainable productive landscapes in silvi- and agricultural modified grasslands in Uruguay

The interdisciplinary RuralFutures research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) takes place during the period 2014 to 2018 with funding amount of EUR 2 million.

The project focuses on the land-use change of the South American native grasslands. RuralFutures works together with German and Uruguayan research institutes, government and non-government organisations, as well with national and transnational forestry and agriculture companies. The objective of the project is to develop multifunctional, biodiverse and sustainable productive land-use concepts.

Photo: RuralFutures

Local land use

While less than 1% of the national territory has a nature conservation status, 95% are used for agriculture and forestry. In addition to the agroindustrial soybean cultivation for the globalized market, a rapid increase in afforested land is recorded. The area used for forestry is now 30 times bigger than 25 years ago. Mainly non-native species (i.e. Eucalyptus, Pinus) are used. Although the ecological effects of this afforestation practice on ecosystems are controversially debated, scientific studies are scarce.

Grasslands within the global change

Dynamic changes of land use and climate as well biological invasions are the results and at the same time the driving forces of a global change. It can prevent the sustainable use of natural resources or reduce the stability of ecosystems and their biodiversity. Of these grasslands - one of the most important reserves of land for agricultural production and one of the most threatened biomes worldwide – are particularly affected.

The RuralFutures project helps to understand these mechanisms and risks and and defines steps towards sustainable rural landscapes, which incorporate biodiversity targets and enhance ecosystem services.


Project Outline

Objectives and Methodology

The RuralFutures Project sets the native grasslands of southern America as the object of research. On those intensely used areas we are aiming to examine the ecological effects of dynamic changes in land use.


To cope with the complex transformation processes of the native grasslands RuralFutures Project consists of four research modules.

Citizen Science

The tasks of RuralFutures long-term monitoring will be hand over to pupils of local schools over time and will be integrated into their syllabus.



2014-2019 (fifth year after successful project evaluation)
Funded by German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the funding priority "Research for Sustainability" (FONA). Project Number: 01LN1305A