OPTIMASS – Sustainable Management of Savanna Ecosystems

In the project OPTIMASS the team is developing new strategies and robust solutions for a sustainable management of Savanna ecosystems. Within the joint project, the research focus of ISOE lies on water resources. The aim is to find out which adapted forms of water management will in the long run secure important ecosystem services.

Research Approach

Savannas account for approximately 20 percent of the land surface worldwide and thus have a significant impact on the carbon cycle. Their vegetation constitutes an important basis for human livelihood and animals. However, the ecosystems are very complex mainly with regard to the interaction between geo- and biosphere. Evidence of that are for example the close connections between vegetation dynamics, soil moisture, groundwater, surface runoff and soil erosion. Climate change and overexploitation endanger these ecosystems. In Namibia, three project sites were chosen along a broad climatic spectrum for more profound investigations into these interactions. Thus, exemplary concepts and solutions can be developed for different conditions of Savanna ecosystems that can then be transferred to other regions.

ISOE is working on a subproject dealing with sustainable water management which is aiming to develop future-orientated strategies that can sustainably stabilise ecosystems also with regard to future developments of climate change. In this context, there is a special focus on local users of resources. Their opportunities for action will be identified and their impact on the ecosystem and the societal utilisation interests will be analysed. Central management strategies are aiming to improve water storage capacities, efficiency of water uses, erosion control, adaption of infrastructures or other measures such as reforestation. They will be investigated at the project sites with regard to different kinds of usage like drinking water, agriculture, animal husbandry, and tourism. The close coupling of water and land management is reflected by corresponding cooperation structures within the project network.


Taking into consideration local knowledge and experience as well as existing uncertainties, participatory modelling methods shall lead to a better understanding of the relations between actors and Savanna ecosystems. By doing so, the practical knowledge of stakeholders will be combined with the knowledge from the process-based models in order to derive recommendations for policy and practice. At the same time, new possibilities of knowledge exchange between science, society and policy shall be created.


The project OPTIMASS is aiming to develop new strategies and robust solutions for a sustainable management of the interaction between geo- and biosphere. Hence, the projects supports the Namibian ‚National Rangeland Management Policy & Strategy‘ (NRMPS) and closely cooperates with local, regional, and national actors and decision makers. So, apart from analysing and modelling Savanna ecosystems and the development of various management options, the training of young scientists and qualified personnel for the implementation of management strategies shall be promoted.


Bergmann, Thomas/Oliver Schulz/Heike Wanke/Stefan Liehr (2018): Groundwater quality in Namibia and its relation to land use and management. In: Blaum, Niels/Dirk Lohmann/Katja Geißler (Hg.): OPTIMASS - A joint Namibian-German research project. Potsdam: University of Potsdam, 24-25

Liehr, Stefan/Jenny Bischofberger/Oliver Schulz (2018): Local knowledge for shaping adapted and flexible management strategies. In: Blaum, Niels/Dirk Lohmann/Katja Geißler (Hg.): OPTIMASS - A joint Namibian-German research project. Potsdam: University of Potsdam, 58-59

Voll, Corinna/Jenny Bischofberger (2018): Learning in networks of practice: a case study with Namibian freehold farmers. In: Blaum, Niels/Dirk Lohmann/Katja Geißler (Hg.): OPTIMASS - A joint Namibian-German research project. Potsdam: University of Potsdam, 56-57

Baldauf, Selina/Jenny Bischofberger/Katja Geissler/Dirk Lohmann/Arnim Marquart/Clara Nesongano/Gregor Ratzmann/Oliver Schulz (2016): Rangeland Management in Namibia - Scientists' and Farmers' Perspective. Briefing for knowledge exchange. Frankfurt am Main: ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

Bischofberger, Jenny/Christian Reutter/Stefan Liehr/Oliver Schulz (2016): The Integration of Stakeholder Knowledge - How Do Namibian Farmers Perceive Natural Resources and Their Benefits?. In: Universität für Bodenkultur Wien BOKU (Hg.): Solidarity in a competing world. Tropentag 2016, 18.09.-21.09.2016 in Wien Proceedings Tropentag 2016. Wien

Bischofberger, Jenny/Katharina Brüser/Stefan Liehr/Oliver Schulz (2015): Sustainable Management of Rangelands - Integrating Practitioner's Knowledge. In: Tielkes, Eric (Hg.): Management of land use systems for enhanced food security: conflicts, controversies and resolutions. Tropentag 2015 Göttingen: Guvillier, 236

More information and transfer products

Broshure OPTIMASS - A joint Namibian-German research project

Project partners

  • Universität Potsdam
  • Freie Universität Berlin
  • Universität Tübingen
  • Alfred-Wegener Institut Potsdam (AWI)
  • Universität Hohenheim
  • Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (KIT)
  • University of Namibia (UNAM)
  • Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST)


The project “OPTIMASS – Sustainable Management of Savanna-ecosystems” is sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) within the research programme SPACES (Science Partnerships for the Assessment of Complex Earth System Processes).


2014/08 – 2017/07

Contact person

 +49 69 7076919-36

Project team