Decreasing erosion by improving carbon stocks in the strongly degraded surrounding of the high-mountain village Saribash in the Greater Caucasus of Azerbaijan.

The University of Greifswald and DUENE e.V., with support from colleagues from Baku State University and from State Agricultural University in Azerbaijan developed proposals for sustainable use of grassland resources. The study included moun­tain meadows, which are especially species-rich, having evol­ved over hundreds of years of extensive use under statio­nary livestock keeping in the mountain villages. They are not only highly important for biodiversity but, with their dense turf, also secure steep slopes against erosion and landslides, storing sig­nificant amounts of carbon in their thick humus layers.

Landslide near Saribash, Azerbaijan (Etzold, J.)Nowadays, mountain meadows are acutely threatened by land-use changes. As livestock keeping expand­ed and switched more and more to transhumant organization forms, hay mea­dows are transformed into pas­tures, in some regions even into crop fields. This land-use change leads to a release of significant amounts of stored carbon in the form of greenhouse gases. The remaining woodlands are under high pressure from grazing and fuel-wood cutting.

DEICSA targets are erosion control, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity conservation. Its activities include the streng­thening of hay-meadow use through soft mecha­nisa­tion and a reduction of use competition through ‘living fences’. Living fences are hedges of indigenous, often thorny woody plants, preferably bearing usable fruit. Such hedges are planted at erosion hotspots, like livestock tracks or road embankments. Seedlings are produced in a com­munity nursery, mostly from cuttings, and planted inside a protective metal fence.

Project presentation in Saribash, Azerbaijan (Etzold, J.)DEICSA aims to develop exist­ing or establish new sources of income for the local com­munity, thus improving liveli­hoods in the long term.