Published: 06 December 2019
Last edited: 06 December 2019
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Summary

This example of best practice describes windbreaks as an integrated approach to increase land productivity and biodiversity at different levels. Windbreaks are a well-known measure against wind erosion. They consist of rows of trees and bushes along the edges of agricultural fields to protect the topsoil from strong winds. The approach was implemented in East Georgia between 2009 and 2019 as part of the “Sustainable Management of Biodiversity, South Caucasus” and the “Integrated Biodiversity Management, South Caucasus” programmes. In these projects, 11km long windbreaks were rehabilitated and newly established, with trees and shrubs planted 10m wide. The tree species included almond, China tree, Russian olive, pistachio, wild pear, wild apricots, black locust, common ash, Caucasian hackberry, Eldar pine and field elm. These species were planted according to the developed planting scheme, using soil and seedling preparation techniques.

Classifications

Region
West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Agroforestry
Theme
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Erosion prevention
Mitigation
Restoration
Challenges
Desertification
Drought
Loss of Biodiversity
Wildfires
Erosion
Ecosystem loss
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
(I)NDC Submission
INDC_Georgia_windbreaks_rehabilitation_191106

Location

Dedoplistskaro, Kakheti, Georgia

Challenges

Windbreaks are an important way of adapting to dry climate conditions and protecting agricultural fields from wind and soil erosion. In the 1950s-70s, around 1,800 km of tree windbreaks were planted in Shiraki. More than 90% of them were destroyed either by fire or illegal cuttings for firewood. Fires are caused by farmers burning harvest residues and by shepherds burning pastures and windbreaks to facilitate the growth of new grass and clear land.

Drought, fire, and frost, but also browsing by (migrating) sheep and cattle, as well as illegal cutting for firewood comprised the main difficulties faced during the rehabilitation of windbreaks. Unclear institutional and managerial setup regarding mandates and obligations for maintaining the windbreak system further aggravate the situation.

Beneficiaries

The beneficiaries are households and farmers, as the windbreaks have a positive impact on crop and timber production. The local population and animals (birds, small mammals, insects) can benefit from the positive ecological and climatic impacts.

How do the building blocks interact?

The approach described here covers a step by step instruction on rehabilitating or growing windbreaks. All building blocks, selection of the site and principle design, seedling selection, and maintenance and protection describe activities and requirements for windbreak rehabilitation. They include a sequence of activities, lessons learned and enabling factors for their successful implementation.

The 1st block begins with the design and preparation of the site for planting of selected drought-resistant bush and tree species. The design plan also specifies trees to be planted in the central and outer rows.

The 2nd block shows the selection of robust trees and bushes adapted to local climate conditions and their survival rate. These recommendations are based on field tests during the project implementation and proved their worth for the Shiraki valley. Irrigation and conditions for planting seedlings are also described in this block.

The 3rd block shows the results of the cost-benefit analysis and how a ban on burning can improve the protection of the remaining and newly established windbreaks. It includes next steps for further adaptation to windbreaks and conditions that support the sustainability of the approach in future.  

 

Impacts

Windbreaks protect the land from wind erosion and drought, help to increase crop yields and timber production. Windbreaks provide refuge areas for plant species sensitive to herbicides and ploughing, and shelter and breeding habitat for birds and small mammals, including predators of agricultural pests. Tree litter improves soil conditions and has a positive impact on the diversity of soil vertebrates and reduces wind velocity up to 200 m into arable land, resulting in a reduction in wind erosion of the topsoil which increases soil productivity. Also, windbreaks improve the microclimate for crops growing in their shelter by reducing moisture loss.

Restoration of windbreaks helps to protect the Shiraki valley from the transformation into steppes in the coming decades. In addition, windbreaks help to make land management more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Contributed by

Hanns Kirchmeir

Other contributors

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH