An integrated approach to explore the unknown role of trees in dryland crop production
Research Project , 2017 – 2020

Trees are an essential resource in African drylands and provide multiple ecosystem services, such as protection from soil erosion, and nutrition for people and livestock. The strong link between trees and human livelihoods is particularly apparent in agroforestry parklands, which have been the dominating land use strategy in the Sudano-Sahelian zone for centuries. However, the influence of trees on soil moisture and crop production, and thus food security, in African drylands is still a highly debated topic. At present, climate change, population growth and intensified land use put increasing pressure on trees in the parklands, with potentially detrimental effects on food security. Improved knowledge about tree-water- crop interactions at landscape scale is critical to developing management strategies intended to promote food security.

This project will apply a novel multi-scale remote sensing approach to derive a more complete understanding of the role of trees in landscape productivity and hydrology. A parkland landscape in Burkina Faso where the research group has experience and unique field datasets will be used as study area. Pléiades, Sentinel (1-3) and TanDEM-X will first be used to derive datasets on tree cover (structure and species composition), soil moisture and crops (type and production) at both local and landscape scale. These datasets will then be analysed with geo-statistical methods to clarify the relationships between trees, soil moisture and crop production.
The project will deliver i) robust evaluations of new remote sensing systems and mapping methods in an important landscape type, and ii) improved understanding of key agro-ecological processes.


Madelene Ostwald (contact)

Gästforskare at Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Leif Eriksson

Associate Professor at Microwave and Optical Remote Sensing

Maciej Soja

Doktor at Microwave and Optical Remote Sensing


Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA)

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Linköping University

Linköping, Sweden

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

Uppsala, Sweden

World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

Nairobi, Kenya


Swedish National Space Board

Project ID: 112/16
Funding Chalmers participation during 2017–2020

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