Main content area

Building Climate Resilience in the Blue Nile/Abay Highlands: A Role for Earth System Sciences

Zaitchik, Benjamin F., Simane, Belay, Habib, Shahid, Anderson, Martha C., Ozdogan, Mutlu, Foltz, Jeremy D.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2012 v.9 no.2 pp. 435
climate, climate change, highlands, land degradation, low input agriculture, rain intensity, soil, soil conservation, sustainable development, topography, water erosion, Ethiopia
The Blue Nile (Abay) Highlands of Ethiopia are characterized by significant interannual climate variability, complex topography and associated local climate contrasts, erosive rains and erodible soils, and intense land pressure due to an increasing population and an economy that is almost entirely dependent on smallholder, low-input agriculture. As a result, these highland zones are highly vulnerable to negative impacts of climate variability. As patterns of variability and precipitation intensity alter under anthropogenic climate change, there is concern that this vulnerability will increase, threatening economic development and food security in the region. In order to overcome these challenges and to enhance sustainable development in the context of climate change, it is necessary to establish climate resilient development strategies that are informed by best-available Earth System Science (ESS) information. This requirement is complicated by the fact that climate projections for the Abay Highlands contain significant and perhaps irreducible uncertainties. A critical challenge for ESS, then, is to generate and to communicate meaningful information for climate resilient development in the context of a highly uncertain climate forecast. Here we report on a framework for applying ESS to climate resilient development in the Abay Highlands, with a focus on the challenge of reducing land degradation.