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In the past years, more and more examples of tipping points in ecosystems have raised concern among scientists, environmental managers and policy makers. Changing environmental conditions in combination with increasing land use pressure can cause ecosystems to suddenly collapse or tip over. Due to the close interaction between nature and society, these tipping points are not yet well understood. They often come as an unpleasant surprise and can have serious environmental and socio-economic impacts, which at worst are irreversible.

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Tipping points play an important role in dryland ecosystems. When rangelands are heavily overgrazed, they can – for example as a result of drought – "tip" towards a desertified state. Perennial forage grasses are often permanently lost, leaving behind barren ground. Desertification is an urgent problem in Namibia. It is predicted that global climate change will even increase the likelihood of crossing desertification tipping points. Interdisciplinary, solutions-oriented science can make an important contribution here. Scientists and stakeholders will collaborate closely in the NamTip project to gain a better understanding of “desertification tipping points” and their effects on the livelihoods of Namibian farmers. At the same time, they want to explore possibilities of avoiding such unwanted effects – for example by means of suitable early warning systems.

The NamTip project brings together experts from many fields. Besides German and Namibian researchers from the natural and social sciences, it involves rangeland managers, policy experts, educators and communicators – each representing a key piece of the transdisciplinary puzzle.

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