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Analysing Multiple Interrelationships between Environmental and Societal Processes in Mountainous Regions of Georgia

This is the primer project to AMIES II.
funded by VokswagenStiftung

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Dr. Annette Otte, Prof. Dr. Ingrid-Ute Leonhäuser

Scientists involved from our division : Prof. Dr. Dr. Annette Otte, Prof. Dr. Rainer Waldhardt, Dr. Dietmar Simmering, Martin Wiesmair MSc.

Project period: 03/2010 - 08/2013

Keywords: transformation process, land use change, climate change, Caucasus



  • MAGIERA, A., FEILHAUER, H., OTTE, A., WALDHARDT, R., SIMMERING, D.: Relating canopy reflectance to the vegetation composition of mountainous grasslands in the Greater Caucasus. - Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 177: 101-112.
  • OTTE, A., AKHALTKATSI, M., NAKHUTSRISHVILI, G., SIMMERING, D. & WALDHARDT, R. (2011): Phytodiversität in Georgien: Die Bedeutung von Standort und Landnutzung im Großen und Kleinen Kaukasus. - Spiegel der Forschung 28/2: 24-31.
  • SIMMERING, D., WALDHARDT, R. & OTTE, A. (2012): Landschaftswandel und nachhaltige Nutzung. Kaukasische Post Februar 2012: S. 13.
  • WALDHARDT, R., ABDALADZE, O., OTTE, A. & SIMMERING, D. (2011): Landschaftswandel im Kaukasus Georgiens. Interdisziplinäre Forschung für eine nachhaltigere Zukunft. - Spiegel der Forschung 28/2: 4-15.


Since its declaration of independence in 1991, Georgia has - as other former Soviet Union states - undergone dramatic transformation processes. Processes like privatisation of land and implementation of new organisational structures for land management and product delivery have caused environmental problems such as land degradation, soil erosion, and decrease in biodiversity, and resulted in societal changes such as pauperisation followed by migration. Climate change has aggravated the environmental problems. Thus, research that aims to foster sustainable land use, land development, and quality of life in this part of the world is urgently needed.

In this context, the proposed three-year research project aims at developing and applying an interdisciplinary and multi-scale approach, focussing on two study regions in the Greater and in the Lesser Caucasus Range of Georgia.

The methodological concept of the research project involves three major steps:

(I) the development of a consistent hierarchical classification of landscape patterns,

(II) the analysis of interrelationships between environmental and societal processes under consideration of these patterns, and

(III) the formulation of regionally differentiated recommendations for sustainable land use and land development.

The term environment refers to physical and biotic conditions and processes, land use and land-use change. Research on societal processes concentrates on socio-economics. Step I will be mainly based on high-resolution digital maps and GIS analyses. The resulting common database will allow for calculating trade-offs between environmental, land-use dependent and socio-economic processes at multiple spatial scales and for formulating recommendations for sustainable land use and land development. To gain a better understanding of the complex interplay between the processes (step II), these will be qualitatively and quantitatively analysed in a network of four project units (A to D) including eight subprojects.

Project structure

Project unit A (one Post-Doc; also involved in step I and III) will analyse changes in landscape structure and land use from about 1960 to 2009.

Project unit B (two PhD students) focuses on climate change and mass wasting events. Within this project unit, subproject B 1 aims at analysing changes in air temperature, precipitation, glacier retreat, and related changes in water run-off. Subproject B 2 aims at strengthening the understanding of recent mass wasting events and at identifying high-risk zones for future landslides.

Project unit C (two PhD students) concentrates on changes in phytodiversity. Indicators of past land-use change, significance of root-soil systems for land erosion, and potentials for land development will be investigated at various spatial scales. This includes cooperative research on above- and belowground vegetation (subprojects C1 and C2).

Project unit D (three PhD students) analyses societal changes at the landscape and regional scale. In Project D integrates a household survey at the landscape scale (D1), expert-interviews and focus group discussions at the regional scale (D2) and the development of a concept for sustainable tourism activities (D3).

In all subprojects, disciplinary analyses will go hand-in-hand with interdisciplinary research on interrelationships between environmental and societal processes. Results will build the basis for the interdisciplinary formulation of recommendations on sustainable land use and land development in step III.

Recommendations will be handed-out to and discussed with governmental organisations and NGO’s in Georgia. In the frame of the project, a kick-off meeting, a symposium, and a closing meeting will be conducted in Tbilisi.