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SPACES scientific collaboration
German and South African scientists are also working closely together in the field of geoscience and climate research. The inaugural event of the "Science Partnerships for the Assessment of Complex Earth System Processes in Southern Africa – SPACES" programme was a further highlight of the key subject, climate change. The programme aims to develop recommendations to politicians through cooperative projects in the region of southern Africa, in order to safeguard the sustainable use and preservation of the various ecosystem services in the region. The planned SPACES projects were presented during the meeting at the University of Cape Town and the foundation for future collaboration was laid.
The SPACES meeting was opened on 30 November 2012 at the University of Cape Town by the Director General of the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST), Prof. Thomas Auf der Heyde, and the German Consul General, Roland Herrmann. Andrea Heyn from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) concluded the meeting by highlighting the prospects of the German-South African "Global Change research" within the framework of the BMBF programme "Research for Sustainable Development" (FONA), under the umbrella of which the SPACES programme will be carried out. Global scientific challenges such as climate change, changes to the water cycle, intensive farming of land, habitat loss and the conservation of the natural biodiversity are especially relevant for the region of southern Africa.
As the global challenges can only be addressed by strong research partnerships, the SPACES programme aims to establish cooperative science projects between Germany and the region of southern Africa.
The current meeting of scientists from Germany, South Africa and neighbouring Namibia served to present the planned SPACES projects. In this context, Dr Werner Ekau from the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT), Bremen, explained his GENUS project, which deals with the geochemistry and ecology of the Namibian upwelling system. A further project was presented by Prof. Jörg Völkels from Technische Universität München (TUM). He is researching South African geological records created by the forming of the Earth’s surface and soil development, in order to learn more about climate change and landscape change. Other projects on the key subjects of "Earth system", "resources and sustainability" and "global change" were also presented.
The exchange of information and experience between researchers will contribute to the formulation of science-based recommendations to politicians for the management of the Earth system. In addition, the sustainable use and the preservation of the various ecosystem services in the region will be safeguarded.
Another aim of the SPACES meeting was to prepare for the official start of the research programme, planned for the middle of 2013. For this reason cooperation between researchers from German universities and non-university research institutions and the respective partner facilities in South Africa and Namibia will be promoted. The conference in Cape Town has provided the initial impetus for this step.